UNHCR honours the sacrifices of aid workers on World Humanitarian Day

News Stories, 21 August 2012

© UN Photo/Cliff Watts
Pop star Beyoncé helped draw public attention to World Humanitarian Day this year with the release of a music video recorded at the United Nations headquarters.

GENEVA, August 21 (UNHCR) UNHCR staff on Tuesday paid tribute to aid workers killed, kidnapped or attacked in the line of duty, including five colleagues slain during the past year in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria.

The observance of a minute of silence and a wreath laying ceremony in Geneva followed Sunday's global commemoration of World Humanitarian Day, which honours the critical role of those who serve people affected by conflict or disaster.

"On World Humanitarian Day we remember the aid workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty and we honour the extraordinary courage and dedication of humanitarian workers around the world," said UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie in a statement.

"I had the honour and the pleasure of meeting one of these brave individuals before his [2009] murder during a visit to Pakistan, where I witnessed first-hand the incredible devotion of a very kind and gentle man. His name was Mr. Zill-e-Usman."

Other events scheduled in Geneva include a panel discussion about news coverage of humanitarian situations, the unveiling of a plaque honouring the victims of a 2003 bombing targeting the United Nations in Iraq, and a photography exhibition.

Humanitarian work has become increasingly risky but 2011 proved especially dangerous. There were more major attacks against aid workers than ever before, according to the Aid Worker Security Database. The number of victims reached an all-time high: 86 aid workers killed, 95 kidnapped and 127 seriously wounded.

Beyoncé, the international pop star, helped draw unprecedented public attention to World Humanitarian Day this year with the release of a new music video, "I Was Here". Recorded live at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the video was the centrepiece of a global advocacy campaign [whd-iwashere.org] by the UN's Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The campaign used Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools to reach hundreds of millions of people, urging them to "commit to doing something good, somewhere, for someone else."

By Christopher Reardon in Geneva

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Pakistan: Fleeing to Safety

More than 1.5 million people flee their homes in North-West Pakistan.

Fighting between the army and Taliban militants in and around the Swat Valley in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province has displaced more than 1.5 million people since the beginning of May. Some of the displaced are being sheltered in camps set up by the government and supplied by UNHCR. Others - the majority, in fact - are staying in public buildings, such as schools, or with friends and extended family members. Living conditions are harsh. With the onset of summer, rising temperatures are contributing to a range of ailments, especially for villagers from Swat accustomed to a cooler climate. Pakistan's displacement crisis has triggered an outpouring of generosity at home. UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is urging a "massive" assistance effort from abroad as well.

Pakistan: Fleeing to Safety

An Infant's Journey to Safety

Three days after giving birth to her fourth child, a girl she named Hawler, Peroz concluded that the situation in her hometown of Hassake, Syria, was too dangerous for her children. She decided to make the difficult journey to northern Iraq. Along the way, she and Hawler were sick. "I was terrified the baby might die," said Peroz, 27.

Although the border was closed, guards felt compassion for the newborn child and let Peroz's family enter. A few days later Peroz and her children were reunited with their father and now they are living with hundreds of other refugees in a small park on the outskirts of Erbil.

Battling mosquitoes and soaring daytime temperatures, and with little more than blankets for comfort and a breakfast of bread and cheese for nourishment, Peroz and her husband hope to be transferred to a new tented settlement.

Over the past few weeks, tens of thousands of Syrians have flooded into northern Iraq, fleeing violence. With existing camps at full capacity, many refugee families are finding shelter anywhere they can. The local government has started transferring people from Qushtapa Park to a nearby camp. UNHCR is registering the refugees, as well as providing tents and life-saving assistance.

An Infant's Journey to Safety

Malian refugees flee for safety to Niger

Thousands of Malian families have arrived in Niger since mid-January, fleeing fighting between a rebel Tuareg movement and Malian government forces in northern Mali. Refugees are living in makeshift settlements along the border, exposed to the sun and wind by day, and cold at night. UNHCR has started distributing relief assistance and is planning to open camps in safer areas further away from the border. UNHCR's Helene Caux met with some the refugees who all expressed their desire to return to their country once peace prevails.

Malian refugees flee for safety to Niger

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety Play video

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety

Years of fighting between Sudan and rebel forces have sent more than 240,000 people fleeing to neighbouring South Sudan, a country embroiled in its own conflict. After weeks on foot, Amal Bakith and her five children are settling in at Ajoung Thok refugee camp where they receive food, shelter, access to education and land.
Tanzania: Fleeing Burundi, Refugees Seek SafetyPlay video

Tanzania: Fleeing Burundi, Refugees Seek Safety

He used to fix broken bicycles in Burundi, but as political troubles and killings mounted Nestor Kamza decided to flee. In search of safety he and his family walked non-stop for 24-hours until they reached Tanzania. His family is among more than 100,000 people who have fled from political violence in Burundi and arrived in the Nyarugusu camp which has almost tripled in size. To alleviate overcrowding in the camp, UNHCR and its partners have planned to open three new camps and have started moving tens of thousands of Burundian refugees to a new, less congested, home
Nigeria: Back to schoolPlay video

Nigeria: Back to school

When gun-toting Boko Haram insurgents attacked villages in north-eastern Nigeria, thousands of children fled to safety. They now have years of lessons to catch up on as they return to schools, some of which now double as camps for internally displaced people or remain scarred by bullets.