UN Refugee Chief honours 'commitment and spirit' of aid workers

On the eve of World Humanitarian Day, Filippo Grandi pays tribute to humanitarians who have lost their lives helping people in need worldwide.

Venezuela. Assistance for Colombian refugees

A Colombian mother and her child speak to a UNHCR worker about accessing healthcare, legal assistance and humanitarian support in the rural town of Tucaní in western Venezuela.  © UNHCR/Pro S Films

GENEVA – UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi today honoured the “commitment and spirit” of humanitarian workers who daily risk their lives to care for those affected by violence worldwide, and who are often targets themselves.

“I would like to pay tribute to all those of you who are operating in difficult environments affected by conflict and insecurity, and for your deep commitment and spirit,” Grandi said in a statement to staff.

He made the remarks on the eve of World Humanitarian Day, which is marked on August 19 each year in tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by crises around the world.

Humanitarians are frequently targeted. Grandi noted that in 2016 alone there were 158 major attacks against humanitarian aid operations globally, with a total of 288 aid workers killed, injured or kidnapped.

He stressed that UNHCR colleagues, many of whom serve in insecure deep field locations, or in urban areas affected by conflict, were among those affected – including three colleagues who endured 23 days in captivity in Darfur at the end of last year. Others were also exposed to harrowing incidents in countries including Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“Many more are also operating in tough, insecure environments, with significant restrictions on their ability to move around, and managing the impact on their lives and well-being of exposure to daily risks,” he said.

For UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, World Humanitarian Day is also Staff Memorial Day. Grandi said it was “an occasion to remember our colleagues and friends who have lost their lives in the course of their work.”

The High Commissioner also paid particular tribute to the contribution of the UN Refugee Agency’s national colleagues, who, he said, “are at the forefront of our delivery, and also of our efforts to build the community acceptance that helps enhance our security.”

The theme of World Humanitarian Day this year is to reaffirm that civilians caught in conflict are #NotATarget.

To learn more about the life of a UNHCR field officer, follow this link.