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World Humanitarian Day: 19th August 2016

Around the world every year, millions of people need our help. The last few years has seen a massive increase in the number of refugees fleeing tyranny and oppression. Yet humanitarianism is not just about helping those fleeing rogue governments. It is also about helping those in disaster zones. The UN has a mandate to help where it can. That’s why in 2008 it came up with the concept of a World Humanitarian Day.

Origins of World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian DayWorld Humanitarian Day has its origins in a terrorist attack on the 19th August 2003. A bomb exploded at the UN Headquarters in Baghdad. 22 people were killed, one of whom was the UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. In December 2008, the UN General Assembly unanimously decided to set the date aside not just to honour the dead, but anybody around the world in need of humanitarian aid.

It is also to honour and acknowledge the important work carried out by humanitarian aid workers and strives to instil the importance of their neutrality in their work. Because they enter disaster zones, war zones and other unstable areas, their lives can often be at risk. Rogue nations do not always respect the boundaries of important work that relief workers and other humanitarian groups carry out.

2016’s Theme for World Humanitarian Day

This year’s theme is an important one: “One Humanity”. No matter where we are in the world, the colour of our skin, our beliefs, philosophy and outlook, we are all one people with a shared common background. The UN uses the day every year to call for respect for aid workers and to encourage others to take up the mantle of humanitarian aid. In demonstrating that we are all the same, they hope that we can see ourselves in others.

“One Humanity” will promote those things that unite us rather than divide us. Our common experiences, common goals and desires for a better world will be the focus for global events this year. Events at UN facilities will take place around the world and this year’s is especially poignant. In May, the countries of the UN came together for the World Humanitarian Summit in which they declared support for the new Agenda for Humanity.

This scheme will seek to end suffering from disaster and political instability, and drive a new focus to improve the existence of those suffering from these avoidable and unavoidable events.

The Shocking Statistics

At present, some 130 million people require humanitarian aid. That number increases every year. The most high profile today is the refugee crisis afflicting the nations of The Mediterranean. Thousands have made the treacherous crossing from the Middle East and North Africa fleeing government upheaval in countries such as Syria, Egypt, Libya and others. Many countries in Europe have committed to doing their part in taking as many as they can.

Those receiving help are broadly broken down into:

  • People who live in poverty
  • Those people who live in environmental vulnerable areas. Some ¾ of the world’s poorest people live in areas that are environmentally vulnerable
  • People who live in countries where there is political instability. Similarly, most of the world’s poorest people live in politically unstable countries. The majority live in areas that are both environmentally vulnerable and politically unstable
  • Internal conflicts in 2015 and 2016 have led to the displacement of 65 million people. The most affected countries are Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and Iraq

The three largest donors of humanitarian aid are: The USA ($6.4 billion or £4.5 billion), Turkey ($3.2 billion or £2.4 billion) and the UK ($2.8 billion of £1.95 billion). Syria is presently the biggest recipient of humanitarian aid with a value of $2 billion or £1.35 billion.