World Humanitarian Day was established by the United Nations in 2009 to honor humanitarian aid workers throughout the world, both those currently providing humanitarian assistance and those who have lost their lives in their humanitarian work. It’s held on August 19 each year to commemorate the anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Iraq, in which 22 people lost their lives, including the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights. Humanitarian aid workers provide life-saving assistance to people in need all over the world who are suffering for a number of reasons, but especially those who live in conflict zones or have been affected by a natural disaster. Anyone and everyone can be a humanitarian, so read on to learn more about the day and how you can help.
How to Observe World Humanitarian Day
1. Donate to a humanitarian organization
There are humanitarian organizations all over the world, and pretty much all of them are in need of resources. If you are able to donate your time to one of these organizations, that’s wonderful. If you can’t, they sure could use some money to enable their workers to provide resources to those who are suffering. You can do an online search yourself, or check out the UN’s World Humanitarian Day website for resources to get you started.
2. Do some humanitarian work in your community
Being a humanitarian doesn’t have to mean traveling to a war zone—the point of humanitarian aid is to alleviate people’s suffering and maintain human dignity. We’re willing to bet that there are plenty of options for you to do just that somewhere in your community. Try volunteering at a homeless shelter, a nursing home, a hospital, or a place that serves underprivileged children.
3. Contact your elected leaders
Choose your preferred method of communication (a phone call, a letter, a tweet) to let your elected leaders know how important humanitarian crises are to you. Ask them to commit to any number of actions to help bolster humanitarian causes in your community or country as well as outside it.
Why World Humanitarian Day is Important
A. It celebrates unsung heroes
Humanitarian aid workers are some of the most heroic and honorable people alive: they put themselves at great risk by traveling to conflict zones and disaster areas to help alleviate the suffering of strangers, and are almost never acknowledged for it. World Humanitarian Day is a sobering reminder of how many lives have been lost in the name of this valiant cause, as well as a celebration of those who are out there doing the work right now.
B. It highlights the need for humanitarian work
For the reasons outlined above, “humanitarian aid worker” isn’t an extremely popular profession. Simply put, there can never be enough humanitarian aid workers out there. Every year, millions of people need humanitarian assistance as a result of disasters both preventable and unpreventable. As much as we hope that some of the man-made conflicts that result in suffering can be resolved, there is always going to be a need for more humanitarian work.
C. It’s an international event
A big part of World Humanitarian Day is drawing importance to the need for international cooperation on humanitarian issues. Humanitarian aid workers might be helping people in their home countries, or they might be dispatched to help those in need in other countries. Having international cooperation between countries is essential to maintaining the safety of humanitarian aid workers while enabling them to help those who are suffering.