For Immediate Release

Office of Press Relations

Press Statement

Twenty years ago today, a suicide bomber detonated a truck filled with explosives outside the United Nations Iraq headquarters in Baghdad. The attack claimed the lives of 22 humanitarian workers and injured more than a hundred more – people working around the clock to deliver food, water, and shelter to communities in need, to promote the human rights of the Iraqi people, and to bring about peace and stability. The bombing also highlighted the significant threats that aid workers face all over the world. In the aftermath of the attack, the United Nations designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day – a day for the world to honor the sacrifices aid workers and their families make every day and to strengthen efforts to protect them. 

Today, humanitarian workers – including members of our own USAID Disaster Assistance Response Teams – are often among the first to respond to emergencies and rush assistance to those in need. These humanitarians have had a tremendous impact. Since Pakistan’s catastrophic floods, our Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance has reached nearly nine million people with food, nutrition, health, and cash assistance. In the months since the devastating earthquake in Türkiye and Syria, our partner the World Food Program – with support from USAID and other donors – has reached 2.7 million people with emergency food assistance. Since the start of Putin’s brutal war against Ukraine, humanitarian workers from a range of organizations have provided food, cash, health, and protection assistance to help nearly 16 million people – close to a third of the country’s total population. 

But as was the case 20 years ago, humanitarian work remains dangerous – and for those serving in conflict zones, even lethal. We are deeply concerned by the increase in safety and security incidents affecting all humanitarian personnel, especially locally recruited personnel. Last year, more than 440 humanitarian workers were attacked in the line of duty – and 116 lost their lives. Already this year, we are mourning 19 aid workers killed since fighting broke out in Sudan – seven of whom were among USAID’s own partner staff. These were people who knew the danger, and yet chose to leave behind their families and loved ones to serve those in need.

On World Humanitarian Day, we call on governments, local authorities, and combatants to prioritize the safety of aid workers and allow them to get critical aid to those who need it most – because the best way to honor the enormous courage and sacrifice of our humanitarian workers is by getting them the support and protection they deserve.

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