Today, on World Humanitarian Day, we celebrate brave aid workers around the world and pay special recognition to the members of our USAID team who serve those most in need. In 2003, after a suicide bomber attacked the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, killing 22 people and injuring more than 100 others, the United Nations designated August 19 as a day to honor the service and sacrifice of aid workers, including those who face threats and violence, as well as those who have paid the ultimate price. Wherever natural disasters, violent conflicts, and other humanitarian crises tear societies apart and test the human spirit, aid workers are on the ground to save lives.
In 2022, as we witness an unprecedented level of need across the world, humanitarians sometimes offer the only lifeline to those suffering. In Ukraine, aid workers from around the globe are facilitating access to food, water, and hygiene products for Ukrainians who continue to shelter as bombs target their homes and their communities. Members of our Disaster Assistance Response Team were some of the very first to assist those who were forced to flee their homes. As the Horn of Africa experiences its worst drought on record and dramatic levels of food insecurity, humanitarians are racing to provide food and cash assistance, vaccinating millions, and ramping up access to clean water and sanitation kits to stop waterborne diseases that often spread when freshwater sources dry up. In Yemen, where the world’s largest humanitarian crisis continues to unfold, brave and dedicated aid workers are providing life-saving relief to some 13 million Yemenis in need of food assistance.
Even as these aid workers address the greatest threats facing humanity, they must confront deteriorating security conditions and the ever-present risk of harm. Violent attacks, harassment, intimidation, and threats have been increasing in recent years. In 2021 alone, 461 aid workers were victims of violence; this includes 141 aid workers who were killed while helping others—the highest number since 2013. Tragically, the vast majority of those who face the greatest risks to their lives are nationals of the country in which they work, sacrificing everything to support the people of their nation. In times of crisis, all countries bear responsibility for protecting humanitarian workers so that vital aid can reach those who need it most. We call on governments, combatants, civilians, and all people affected by crisis and disaster to protect humanitarian staff, wherever they work.
On this World Humanitarian Day, we pay tribute to aid workers who work tirelessly under the most challenging circumstances, and we pay special tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. We recognize the tremendous service of USAID’s humanitarians and our many partners, and we express our gratitude to all aid workers worldwide for their courage and dedication.