August 19 is World Humanitarian Day. The day is dedicated to humanitarian workers, men and women who provide relief, assistance and hope for millions of crisis victims in the most hazardous regions of the world.
The World Humanitarian Day was established in 2008 by the UN General Assembly, which picked 19 August in memory of the 22 UN humanitarian workers who were killed by the bomb explosion in the UN office in Baghdad, Iraq, on 19 August 2003. One of them was the UN Secretary General's Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello.
There are more than half a million aid workers in the world today, counting both relief and development personnel. The last detailed assessment of the sector, carried out in 2008, placed the number of aid workers at 595 000 (including international and national employees of UN humanitarian agencies, international non-governmental organisations and those working in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent group).
The European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) employs more than 400 humanitarian experts who work in 47 field offices where humanitarian aid is most needed (watch ECHO experts' testimonies). Their responsibilities are to monitor and evaluate ECHO-funded projects and to ensure the efficient and quick delivery of needs-based aid. In 2010, the Commission allocated €1.115 billion to humanitarian assistance. Collectively, the EU is the world's largest institutional humanitarian donor and since the start of this year has delivered over 37% of global humanitarian funding.
Today, in the Horn of Africa, we are facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Thanks to humanitarian workers, the victims of this life-threatening drought, the regional conflicts and the food crisis are receiving emergency assistance. European solidarity and the dedication of humanitarian workers are really making a difference to the lives of millions of people.
The EU is dedicated to helping humanitarian aid workers in their struggle and will continue to advocate respect for humanitarian principles.