When many of us in the UK are flying off for our summer holiday, there are a few destinations that won’t figure on many of our boarding passes: Afghanistan, South Sudan, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia to name a few. Many people in these, and other parts of the world, have little chance of escaping dire humanitarian situations, never mind indulging in a holiday.
The first World Humanitarian Day was observed this week, and with it came a sobering reminder of the scale of humanitarian need across the world. But we should also remind ourselves that the humanitarian community’s ability to respond quickly, effectively and predictably to crises has improved dramatically over the last 20 years.
This improvement is in large part due to the work of thousands of aid workers who have dedicated, and in some cases given, their lives to supporting those affected by crises. In 2008, 260 humanitarian aid workers were killed, kidnapped or seriously injured in violent attacks — the highest annual figure ever recorded. The sad fact is that aid workers are increasingly seen as legitimate targets.
We continue to operate in some of the most insecure environments on the planet. Despite the risks, and driven by the humanitarian imperative, we continue to deliver assistance to those who need it most, mixing principles with pragmatism, and courage with compassion.
World Humanitarian Day in part serves to honour those who have died whilst delivering life-saving assistance. And as we remember with respect those who have passed away, I want to take this opportunity to thank, with sincerity and admiration, the work of humanitarian aid workers around the world.