UNFPA Marks First-ever World Humanitarian Day

  • 17 August 2009

On 19 August 2009, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, joins the rest of the humanitarian community in marking the first World Humanitarian Day.

In the last decade, more than 700 humanitarian workers lost their lives while helping those most in need in the world’s most difficult environments. Thousands more have endured bombing, kidnapping, attacks, hijacking, robbery and rape.

UNFPA currently has humanitarian operations in 68 countries and is committed to assisting and protecting women, men and young people made vulnerable by natural disaster, armed conflict, and other causes.

When emergency strikes, women continue to have reproductive health needs – they continue to get pregnant, to deliver, and they need uninterrupted care to avoid complications. In conflicts and emergencies, women and girls are also at particular risk of rape and other forms of violence. UNFPA works with partners to ensure that the specific needs of women are included in humanitarian response and moves quickly to protect the reproductive health of communities, including promoting safe motherhood, preventing HIV and AIDS, and addressing violence against women and girls.

In December 2007, UNFPA lost two staff members in Algiers. This June, three workers delivering assistance on behalf of UNFPA were killed in a suicide attack in Pakistan. “They lost their lives upholding the ideals of the United Nations—faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in peace and justice and in equal rights for men and women,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director. “We honour their memory and affirm our resolve to continue our humanitarian efforts.”

The United Nations General Assembly designated 19 August as World Humanitarian Day in remembrance of the 2003 tragic attack on the United Nations office in Iraq, which killed 22 people and left many more wounded. Among them was the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and longtime humanitarian, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

On World Humanitarian Day, UNFPA honours the memory of these and other colleagues. It salutes the work of the thousands of humanitarian workers around the world and recommits to delivering its life-saving mandate where it is most needed.

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