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World Humanitarian Day: UNHCR chief pays tribute to sacrifice of aid workers


World Humanitarian Day: UNHCR chief pays tribute to sacrifice of aid workers

In a message issued to mark World Humanitarian Day, António Guterres stresses that last two years have been the most tragic ever.
19 August 2015
UNHCR staff member Paul Kenya registers refugees from Burundi as they board a bus to take them to the new Mahama refugee camp in the Bugesera Reception Centre in Rwanda in May.

GENEVA, Aug 19 (UNHCR) - UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Tuesday paid tribute to humanitarian workers worldwide whose work he said was becoming increasingly complex, dangerous and unpredictable.

In a staff message issued to mark World Humanitarian Day, he stressed that the last two years had been "the most tragic ever with 329 aid workers falling victim to major attacks in 2014, and 457 in 2013."

He added that the number of countries where staff faced significant threats was also on the rise and now includes Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Syria, the Ukraine and Yemen.

"On World Humanitarian Day we honour and pay tribute to all humanitarian personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of peace and humanity," Guterres noted.

In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day in honour of the 22 colleagues, including former top UNHCR Sergio Vieira de Mello, who lost their lives in the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad five years earlier. World Humanitarian Day is a time to remember colleagues and friends who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

"We specifically acknowledge the dedication and courage of our UNHCR colleagues and partners as they tirelessly work to meet the spiraling needs of an unprecedented number of displaced people around the world. We recognize the tremendous risks and challenges they face as they provide protection and life-saving support," Guterres said.

UNHCR chief António Guterres placed flowers at the UNHCR staff memorial in remembrance of those staff members who died in the line of duty.

In a formal address to staff to mark the occasion, Guterres paid tribute to local staff in particular whom he said had made up the "overwhelming majority" of those killed.

He noted that the nature of conflict had changed in recent years. "It is becoming more and more difficult to predict what is happening, and more and more difficult to protect our staff," he said, praising the commitment of staff who never want to leave the side of those they are trying to serve.

He then led a minute's silence for those killed in the line of duty before laying a wreath on the staff memorial at UNHCR's Geneva headquarters.

"World Humanitarian Day is also an opportunity to reconnect ourselves with the values of humanitarianism and to celebrate the spirit that inspires our work around the globe. I encourage representatives and staff in the field to participate and learn more about the United Nations social media campaign for World Humanitarian Day, which calls on messengers of humanity to take part by sharing humanitarian stories," he added.

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