CAIRO – The World Food Programme Regional Bureau for the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe marked World Humanitarian Day today by paying tribute to all aid workers who died while assisting the world’s most vulnerable people – and in particular, to WFP’s Gene Luna, who was killed in a 2007 bomb attack on a United Nations building in Algiers.
Observed for the first time this year, World Humanitarian Day aims to increase public understanding of humanitarian activities and to honour humanitarian workers who were killed or injured in the line of duty.
“In a world of violence, war and hunger, there's an island of sanity represented in the people who work in the humanitarian field,” said Tunisian actress Hend Sabry, a WFP celebrity partner who joined the commemoration in the regional office in Cairo.
Saving lives for a living
“They are not seeking fame or recognition; they save lives for a living. At least one day a year, we should remember them and thank them for their precious sacrifices in a less and less humane world," Sabry said.
The Cairo bureau dedicated a plaque to the memory of Luna, who died under the rubble in Algiers aged 48. It also observed a moment of silence for the 122 humanitarian workers who were killed on the job last year, including 14 drivers delivering WFP food assistance in Somalia and Sudan. Another 26 WFP staff were wounded and 44 were abducted or detained in 2008.
Luna was a Filipino national who joined WFP in Afghanistan five years ago as a finance officer. She was transferred to Algiers only a week before her death in a bombing that claimed the lives of 45 other people.
Remembering Gene Luna
“Gene was a kind and loving daughter, sister and aunt,” her sister Lillian Luna said in a message from Manila. “She was once asked why she wanted to go and work in dangerous places and her answer was ‘I want to serve people and make my life meaningful’.”
The blast completely destroyed the third floor of the UN building housing the WFP offices in Algiers. Most staff were away from the office when it occurred.
Lynda Matougui, another WFP staff member who was injured in the blast, has since recovered. She still works in WFP’s Algiers office.