World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day: Visiting a construction site for a new Ebola Treatment Unit in front of the former Ministry of Defense
Photo: Morgana Wingard for USAID


Each year on August 19, we pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives helping millions of people affected by crises around the world. The United Nations designated this as World Humanitarian Day in memory of the 22 UN and relief agency staff who lost their lives in a Baghdad bombing on this day 13 years ago. It is an opportunity to pause to honor the brave men and women who have died serving others, while celebrating the humanitarian spirit that mobilizes help for those who are suffering.

Saving lives is getting harder to do as crises and conflicts grow in complexity, strain scarce resources, and often put aid workers in grave danger. The numbers tell a grim story: a record 130.5 million people are in need across 40 countries; more than 65 million people have been forcibly displaced by conflict and violence by the end of 2015—the highest figure ever recorded. Violence and insecurity in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, and Yemen are still driving massive internal and cross-border displacement.

This past May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, bringing together 9,000 participants from 180 member states, non-governmental organizations, the UN, and private sector companies, to reaffirm a global commitment to address the world’s suffering and to make long overdue changes to how the international community provides aid.

To better serve those affected by crises, the United States made concrete commitments to improve the way we design, fund, and evaluate humanitarian assistance. These commitments build on the life-saving work that USAID’s elite disaster experts are currently carrying out around the world. USAID has Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DARTs) deployed to lead the U.S. government’s response to four major crises. In Ethiopia, the DART is responding to one of the country’s worst droughts in 50 years. In South Sudan, where recent fighting has caused tens of thousands to flee their homes, the DART is assisting people displaced by the violence. For the crises in Syria and Iraq, DART members are working with dedicated humanitarian partners to overcome significant obstacles and navigate fluid frontlines to deliver much-needed food, safe drinking water, medical care, and critical relief supplies.

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Last updated: March 30, 2017

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