Honoring Humanitarians Who Put Their Lives on the Line to Save Others

Wherever natural disasters, violent conflicts, and other humanitarian crises tear societies apart and test the human spirit, aid workers are on the ground every hour of every day to save lives. Today, on World Humanitarian Day, USAID honors brave aid workers around the world as they serve people in need.

On World Humanitarian Day, we take a moment to recognize the people who make humanitarian aid possible. Photos: USAID, International Medical Corps

Why We Celebrate World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day started in the wake of the horrific August 19 Canal Hotel bombing in 2003 that killed many UN colleagues and innocent Iraqi bystanders. Since then, it has become a day to recognize the tremendous service made by humanitarians, who tirelessly work to save lives amid the growing challenges and threats.

The challenges facing aid workers in 2022 are immense. Compounding crises have depleted global resources and stretched the capacity of dedicated humanitarians to respond to the unprecedented needs across the world. From deadly conflicts like Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine to the worst drought on record in the Horn of Africa to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in Yemen, myriad emergencies have upended the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Through it all, humanitarians are there to ease suffering and offer a lifeline.

Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine, drought in the Horn of Africa, and conflict in Yemen are all adding to growing global humanitarian needs. Photos: AFP, UNICEF, UNOCHA

But their work does not come without cost. Aid workers are confronting deteriorating security conditions and the ever-present risk of harm. Violent attacks, harassment, intimidation, and threats by various parties to conflict against humanitarians are increasing every year.

Graphic: Jacquie Frazier & Mardri Gaston-Williams/USAID

Last year, South Sudan was the most dangerous country for aid workers, followed by Afghanistan and Syria. Tragically, the vast majority of those who face the greatest risks to their lives are local nationals of the country in which they work, sacrificing everything to support their neighbors. Targeting humanitarian workers, regardless of nationality, is unacceptable.

Map: Jacquie Frazier/USAID

Who We Honor

In times of crisis, everyone bears responsibility for protecting humanitarian workers so that vital aid can reach those who need it most. An African proverb says: “It takes a village to raise a child,” highlighting the collective efforts of many people required to provide a safe and secure environment for children to develop and flourish.

Similarly, it takes a village to help people in crisis — with an entire humanitarian community made up of local volunteers, emergency services, non-governmental organizations, the Red Cross, and the UN closely working together around the world.

While humanitarian’s roles may be different, their impact is shared. From health worker, to advocate, to protection officer to leader, each plays a critical role ensuring aid gets to those who need it most. We reached out to some brave humanitarians — all USAID partners — working in some of the world’s most dangerous places. They told us what motivates them to be part of the global “village” that saves lives, day after day. Read their words:

Showing Gratitude to our USAID Partners

At USAID, we could not do what we do without our partners. On this World Humanitarian Day and every day, we remember those aid workers who work tirelessly under the most challenging circumstances and often sacrifice their own in the process. We recognize the tremendous service of USAID’s humanitarians and partners and stand in solidarity with all aid workers worldwide who are serving humanity and saving lives.

Get more information on World Humanitarian Day.

Follow USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.

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