ROME – In 2003, the world mourned when 22 people lost their lives in an attack on the United Nations office in Baghdad, Iraq. Ten years later, we still mourn all too often for humanitarian workers killed in the line of duty. Many more are injured, detained, kidnapped, traumatized and otherwise prevented from carrying out their life-saving work.
This World Humanitarian Day (19 August), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) family remembers seven colleagues who lost their lives in the past year while endeavouring to help those in need in South Sudan, Sudan, Rwanda and Afghanistan. We and their loved ones will remember them for their bravery in the face of danger, their passion for the fight against hunger and their dedication to helping others before themselves.
In addition to honouring those who are no longer with us, we also pay tribute to the humanitarians from WFP and all our partner organizations who, selflessly and tirelessly, deliver nutritious food to malnourished children, build shelters for victims of flooding and provide clean water for refugees who fled their homes with nothing.
As we aim for a world free from hunger and poverty, we must support and enable the challenging work of those who spend their lives striving to make this goal a reality. This means recognizing and respecting the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. It means allowing and facilitating safe passage for staff trying to reach the most vulnerable communities.
Ultimately, it requires a true and deep understanding of what humanitarianism really means, as described perfectly by my colleague Luis, a WFP driver in Panama: “It is giving everything to serve other human beings who are in need of help, not only in emergencies, but whenever they seek support, without thinking about how one is feeling in that moment.”