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

Tuesday, 19 August 2014 10:32 GMT

United Nations (U.N.) High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres speaks during a visit to the Khazer refugee camp on the outskirts of the Kurdish city of Arbil, July 17, 2014.REUTERS/Stringer

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GENEVA, August 19 (UNHCR) - UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Tuesday paid tribute to the enormous contribution made every year by humanitarian workers while noting that their work was becoming more and more dangerous.

"Last year alone, more than nearly 250 security incidents were reported, killing, injuring or otherwise harming 457 aid workers," he said in a staff message to mark World Humanitarian Day. "Never before has the humanitarian community suffered such losses. This year, the threats continued in Afghanistan, South Sudan, Somalia, the Central African Republic, Myanmar, Kenya and many other places."

Guterres said that one UNHCR staff member had been killed in May this year. "Our colleague Aboudalaye Sall was brutally murdered in the Central Africa Republic," during the height of the inter-communal violence that had reflared in December 2013 in Bangui and other towns.

The High Commissioner urged staff to remember and pay tribute to those, like Sall, who "paid the ultimate price in the service of humanity. We honour their memory and stand in solidarity with the families of the victims and with the survivors."

He said that World Humanitarian Day provided an opportunity for UNHCR staff "to pause and reflect on the personal and professional challenges facing many of our colleagues and their families, especially at this moment when simultaneous crises are unfolding and the world seems to be a more dangerous and unpredictable place than ever."

Guterres said that as the humanitarian challenges grew, humanitarians were more needed than ever. "World Humanitarian Day is also an important vehicle to raise public awareness of the critical role played by aid workers in providing protection and life-saving assistance to millions of people affected by conflict and disasters worldwide, and helping them to rebuild their lives."

People around the world are holding commemorative events today to mark World Humanitarian Day, which this year has the theme: "The World Needs More Humanitarian Heroes." As part of this year's activities, a global online community has been launched. These Messengers of Humanity will be called upon to take action on humanitarian crises by sharing inspired content on social media platforms.

In Geneva, staff at UNHCR's headquarters will hold one minute's silence to remember UN colleagues who have given their lives in the line of duty.

In 2008, the UN General Assembly designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day in honour of the 22 people who lost their lives in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad on August 19, 2003. It highlights the vital and often dangerous work conducted worldwide by aid workers.

For stories about the daily work of UNHCR staff, go to

For the World Humanitarian Day website, go to