Today is World Humanitarian Day – an occasion for the European Commission to honour those who dedicate their lives to preserving and improving the lives of others who need assistance to survive.
"Humanitarian workers are humble but their achievement is not: each of them can make a difference for hundreds of human beings and this could be the difference between life or death, between starvation and deprivation or promise and self-sufficiency,” pointed out Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.
Collectively, the EU is the world's largest humanitarian donor – since the start of this year it has delivered over 37% of global humanitarian funding. To deliver the solidarity of European citizens to the victims of crises around the world, the Commission collaborates with over 200 relief organisations. In 2010 the EU provided €1.115 billion to fund the activities of the world's most efficient humanitarian aid organisations. This support is translated into relief and hope for 151 million of suffering people in 80 countries.
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 a 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.
"World Humanitarian Day marks a time of remembrance and regret – and of resolve to continue to help those most in need despite the dangers," Commissioner Georgieva said.
Humanitarian workers pay a high price for their commitment. Kidnappings, shootings and death threats are part of the job description in Afghanistan and Somalia, Darfur, Sri Lanka and many other places. According to the UN, in the last ten years it has become increasingly dangerous for aid workers to deliver assistance to those in need. In 2010 there were 129 security incidents targeting humanitarian workers; 69 of them were killed, 86 were injured and 87 were kidnapped.