The United Nations and the International Advertising Association (IAA) have commended humanitarian workers, who are going the extraordinary lengths to help women, men and children whose lives are overturned by crises and the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In a joint statement to mark the World Humanitarian Day, the two organisations said the dedication, perseverance and the sacrifice of ‘these real-life heroes represent the best of humanity as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the massive increase in humanitarian needs it has triggered.’
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.
This year's World Humanitarian Day comes as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic.
To pay tribute to the efforts of humanitarians, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in collaboration with International Advertising Association IAA, presents the personal stories of some of the heroes who are stepping up to meet the challenges, particularly local humanitarian workers.
“First responders are often people in need themselves, refugees, members of civil society organizations and local health workers. They bring food, shelter, health care, protection and hope to others amid conflict, displacement, disaster and disease.
But humanitarian workers are being tested like never before, struggling with unprecedented movement restrictions and insufficient resources as needs are outpacing funds,” they said.
According to Humanitarian Outcomes’ Aid Worker Security Database, major attacks against humanitarians last year surpassed all previous years on record. A total of 483 relief workers were attacked, 125 killed, 234 wounded and 124 kidnapped in 277 separate incidents. This is an 18 per cent increase in the number of victims compared to 2018.
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 Congo.
Most of the attacks occurred in Syria, followed by South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 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 calls for accountability for perpetrators and justice for survivors. Relief workers cannot be a target.
Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator said: “To humanitarians 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 humanitarians is by funding their work and ensuring their safety.”
Echoing the sentiments, Srinivasan Swamy, Chairman & World President of International Advertising Association (IAA) said, “there can be no supreme sacrifice than the work done by the healthcare workers. They know the extreme risk they take in assisting the humanity at times of health crises like the current one. IAA stands with them and want to offer respect and salute these extraordinary #RealLifeHeros.”
“It was a privilege for the IAA to partner with the OCHA team and engage our members in the development and activation of the #RealLifeHeros campaign. More than ever, the industry needs to collaborate more closely together to demonstrate how advertising can be a positive force globally,” said Dagmara Szulce, Managing Director of IAA Global.