World Humanitarian Day 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. On 19 August 2003, a bomb attack hit the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 people, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Five years later, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 19 August as World Humanitarian Day.
Every year since then, the humanitarian community has organized global campaigns to commemorate WHD, advocating for the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers, and for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises. Since that day, more than 4,000 humanitarians have been killed, injured, detained, kidnapped or otherwise prevented from carrying out their life saving duties. That’s an average of 300 cases a year, or almost one every single day. In 2018, there were 369 attacks on aid workers, including kidnapping, detention and assaults. 120 of those humanitarians were killed.
This year, the United Nations has chosen to focus on female humanitarians, sharing the stories of 24 women who are affecting change in cities and towns and villages around the world.