World Humanitarian Day 2020: Theme, History, Significance, Facts, Quotes & Wishes

World Humanitarian Day (WHD) is held every year on 19 August to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by crises around the world.

World Humanitarian Day: History

World Humanitarian Day established by the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate the death of Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 of his fellow humanitarians in a bombing of the Baghdad headquarters of the UN. Ironically, Sergio had laid the groundwork for the piecing together of the Draft for the official designation of World Humanitarian Day.

In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly formalized the day as World Humanitarian Day. World Humanitarian Day was officially established to recognize Sergio and the thousands like him who work every day to make the world a better place for the less fortunate, the underprivileged, and those living in places of war, starvation, and pestilence.

World Humanitarian Day 2020: Eleventh Edition

This is the eleventh World Humanitarian Day, designated by the UN General Assembly. It falls on the day of the attack on the UN compound in Baghdad on 19 August 2003, which claimed the lives of 22 people including the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Since then, nearly 5,000 humanitarians have been killed, wounded or abducted, and the 2010-2019 decade experienced a 117 per cent increase in attacks compared to 2000-2009.

A surge in attacks against health workers was recorded in 2019, including strikes against medics in Syria and shootings of Ebola workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Most of the attacks occurred in Syria, followed by South Sudan, DRC, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic. Mali and Yemen both saw a doubling of major attacks from the previous year. The UN condemns these attacks, and it calls for accountability for perpetrators and justice for survivors. Relief workers cannot be a target.

Mark Lowcock, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said: “To humanitarian workers everywhere doing important, courageous work on the front lines we say Thank You. You are saving lives every day, and as new challenges and crises are piling on to existing ones, your perseverance is an inspiration. Your protection is also paramount to making sure we can deliver to people most in need. The best way to pay tribute to humanitarian workers is by funding their work and ensuring their safety.”

World Humanitarian Day 2020: Theme

The World Humanitarian Day was first marked on August 19, 2009, with each year having a particular theme for the commemoration. In 2010, the theme of the year was “We are Humanitarian Workers”, while the 2011 campaign was “People Helping People”.

This year’s World Humanitarian Day comes as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic. To pay tribute to the efforts of humanitarians, OCHA and its partners present the personal stories of some of the #RealLifeHeroes who are stepping up to meet the challenges, particularly local humanitarian workers.

They include refugees who as health workers are playing essential roles in the pandemic response; Ebola health workers who are stepping in to fight COVID-19; and doctors and nurses who continue to provide critical health care to women and children.

It focuses on the cause that makes humanitarians serve and protect the lives of people despite all difficult situations including conflict, lack of access and risks linked to COVID-19.

Global Humanitarian Response Plan to COVID-19 as per the UN

It is articulated around three strategic priorities:

– Spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and decrease morbidity and mortality.

– A decrease in the deterioration of human assets and rights, social cohesion, and livelihoods.

– Protect, assist, and advocate for refugees, internally displaced people, migrants, and host communities mainly vulnerable to the pandemic.

World Humanitarian Day 2020: Facts & Figures

In 2019, 483 aid workers were attacked: 125 killed, 234 wounded and 124 kidnapped in a total of 277 separate incidents.

Most of the attacks occurred in Syria, followed by South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Central African Republic (CAR), Yemen and Mali.

WHO reported 1,009 attacks against healthcare workers and facilities, resulting 199 deaths and 628 injuries.

90% of all attacks worldwide were on national staff.

Humanitarian aid delivered globally in 2019

28.9M children were vaccinated globally against measles.

6.9M children (6—59 months), pregnant and lactating women with acute malnutrition were newly admitted for treatment globally.

32.2M people provided with access to safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene.

92.6M children and caregivers worldwide accessed mental health and psychosocial support.

42.0M livestock reached with vaccination and treatment campaigns.


Global Humanitarian Overview 2020

In 2020, nearly 168 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection. This represents 1 in about 45 people in the world, and is the highest figure in decades. The United Nations and partner organizations aim to assist nearly 109 million of the most vulnerable people. This will require funding of $28.8 billion.The situation will keep getting worse unless climate change and the root causes of conflict are better addressed. On current trends, projections show that more than 200 million people could be in need of assistance by 2022

World Humanitarian Day: Famous Quotes

1. “These real-life heroes are doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times to help women, men and children whose lives are upended by crises.” — António Guterres

2. “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love.The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.”-Mahatma Gandhi

3. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”- Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights activist and clergyman

4. “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.”
– Mother Teresa, founder of The Missionaries of Charity

5. “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”- Nelson Mandela

6. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

7. “The destiny of world civilization depends upon providing a decent standard of living for all mankind.”
– Norman Borlaug

8. “We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.”- Eleanor Roosevelt

World Humanitarian Day: Wishes

  • You might be only one individual in tens of millions however your actions usually are not insignificant. It takes just one to change the world. Step out and change the world for higher on this World Humanitarian Day.
  • On this event of World Humanitarian Day let your life’s most pressing and persistent query be what are you doing for others. Pleased World Humanitarian Day.
  • Go into the world and do nicely. However extra importantly, keep in mind to go into the world and do good. Want you a really completely satisfied World Humanitarian Day.
  • All the ability that we need to change the world and make it a greater place, we have already got it in our fingers. It’s up to us to use it and deliver a change. Finest wishes on this World Humanitarian Day.
  • Ultimately, all that will get left behind is our acts of kindness inside the hearts of different individuals. Want you a really completely satisfied World Humanitarian Day.
  • On this event of World Humanitarian Day do what you can. If you can’t feed 100 individuals then simply feed one however begin. Pleased World Humanitarian Day.
  • A person’s true wealth on this world is the great that he does on the earth. Want you a really completely satisfied World Humanitarian Day.

Why do we mark International Days?

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.

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