On World Humanitarian Day

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Statement by Administrator Samantha Power

For Immediate Release

Thursday, August 19, 2021
Office of Press Relations

Today, on World Humanitarian Day, the U.S. Agency for International Development pays special tribute to aid workers around the world for their courage and sacrifice. It was 18 years ago that a car bomb claimed the lives of 22 humanitarian workers in Baghdad, including revered United Nations diplomat and peacemaker Sérgio Vieira de Mello. Since that day, the UN has designated August 19 as a day to honor those who put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect and save the lives of those in dire need due to natural disasters, active conflicts, and other humanitarian crises.

This World Humanitarian Day takes on a special resonance for USAID. This morning, we lost one of our own, longtime humanitarian assistance expert Tresja Denysenko, when she unexpectedly passed away while serving with our Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) responding to the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Tresja was a humanitarian in every sense, rushing to respond to disasters, conflicts, and complex crises across the world, from South Sudan to the West Africa Ebola outbreak to the Tigray region of Ethiopia. She is survived by her husband and their daughter.

In a world buffeted by climate shocks, natural disasters, and conflicts that last increasingly longer, humanitarian efforts like the kind Tresja devoted her life to have never been more essential. We’re seeing that today in southwestern Haiti, where USAID’s DART, including search and rescue members, are working to save lives and deliver relief, as well as in Afghanistan, where aid workers remain committed to delivering humanitarian aid.

Yet, in the face of this grave, global need, over the past decade, more aid workers were targeted and harmed than ever before. At least 475 aid workers were killed, injured, or kidnapped last year—a 90 percent increase since 2010. South Sudan, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo were the most dangerous places for aid workers, with persistent attacks. In the Tigray region of Ethiopia, at least 14 humanitarian workers have been killed since the beginning of the conflict in November 2020.

Attacks, intimidation, or threats against humanitarian workers, regardless of nationality, are unacceptable. We strongly condemn this violence and call on governments, regimes, and all parties in conflict regions to make sure of the safety of all humanitarian staff, so that lifesaving assistance can reach the people who depend on it. Maintaining aid worker safety and unhindered access to desperate communities is critical to keeping people alive.

On this World Humanitarian Day and every day, we stand in solidarity with aid workers worldwide. We recognize the tremendous service of USAID’s humanitarians and partners and celebrate their dedication to saving lives, preserving human dignity, and alleviating suffering.

Last updated: May 24, 2022

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