19th August 2012 – World Humanitarian Day: People Helping People

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19/08/2012 - August 19th is World Humanitarian Day, a global day to celebrate humanity and the spirit of people helping people. At the same time, this day commemorates the largest single attack on aid workers, when the then Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 of his colleagues were killed in the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August 2003. On this day, the international community pays tribute to all of the humanitarian workers who have lost their lives doing their job, and reiterates the message that humanitarians should be given safe and secure access to the victims of human-made and natural disasters without exception.

Humanitarian work is becoming one of the world's most dangerous professions. Kidnappings, shootings and death threats are part of the job description in places such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, Somalia and others blighted by conflict. Indeed over 800 humanitarian workers have been killed trying to get aid to those in need in the last 10 years, and another 1300 have been kidnapped or wounded. Imagine you were to help somebody in need, a child, an old lady, and suddenly someone threatens you at gunpoint or even shoots at you. That's what humanitarian workers face all too often.


Video testimonies from ECHO staff

Here are testimonies from some of ECHO's humanitarian field experts recounting their experiences of moments when their lives or those of their colleagues were threatened. They advocate for combatants to recognise the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality and to respect international humanitarian law.



Videoclip - Health Care in Danger     Don't shoot! I am a humanitarian aid worker   Videoclip - Beyoncé's message   Dadaab and Somalia: Insecurity a major threat to refugees and aid workers alike
Health Care in Danger   World Humanitarian Day – What it means to work in Afghanistan   The story behind the picture...   Beyoncé's message   Dadaab and Somalia: Insecurity a major threat to refugees and aid workers alike
Eric Pitois's blog post   Videoclip - Raul's message            
Eric Pitois's blog post   Raul's message            



Poster Checkpoint   Poster Cholera tent   Poster Emergency room   Poster Mother & baby    


The importance of Humanitarian Access

It is inhumane to leave civilians caught up in armed conflict without help, and when this happens humanitarian workers should, without exception, be given safe and secure access by the warring parties to help those in greatest need according to the principles of neutrality and impartiality. This is not only the clear and unchanging position of the European Commission (as outlined in the EU guidelines on the promotion of compliance with international humanitarian law and the EU Consensus on Humanitarian Aid). It is also enshrined in International Humanitarian Law.

Seeking to better understand the contemporary challenges facing humanitarian workers and to explore the possible ways of improving the reach and efficiency of our humanitarian funding, ECHO has commissioned this study on how to develop better access strategies in countries where the security of aid workers is at risk.


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