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Humanitarian assistance: thanking humanitarian aid workers

Humanitarian aid workers (collage)

Humanitarian aid workers (collage), © UNOCHA

19.08.2020 - Article

Today’s World Humanitarian Day shines a spotlight on humanitarian aid workers. The day commemorates a bomb attack in the Iraqi capital Baghdad 17 years ago that claimed the lives of 22 UN staff members.

The Federal Foreign Office has for years been a strong contributor to humanitarian assistance efforts, the essential aim of which is to help people in need – regardless of their origin, religion or political orientation. While humanitarian needs are on the rise in many countries, the workers delivering aid face increasing dangers.

Humanitarian aid workers assist people around the world in response to emergencies

In recent years, violent conflicts, extreme weather events and diseases have created emergency situations affecting many: at the beginning of this year, nearly 170 million people were dependent on humanitarian assistance. The COVID‑19 pandemic has dramatically exacerbated this situation. Many people, for example in Central American or African countries, have faced not only the risk of falling ill, but have also lost their livelihoods.

Around the world, people are trying to alleviate this suffering – they include humanitarian aid workers treating the injured in hospitals in Yemen; those providing assistance to children and youths in the world’s largest refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh; and those delivering vital food aid by plane and helicopter to remote regions of South Sudan.

An increase in violent attacks

Unfortunately, humanitarian aid workers are not only met with gratitude – in recent months, a large number of them have fallen victim to violent attacks. Ambulances in Syria have been bombed, and aid workers in Nigeria have been kidnapped. In 2019 alone, 483 aid workers died in such attacks – the largest number ever recorded.

Germany’s commitment to international humanitarian law

Germany is strongly committed to ensuring that humanitarian aid workers receive the protection they are afforded under international humanitarian law. To this end, Germany, France and other countries and humanitarian organisations issued the humanitarian Call for Action in 2019, which contains concrete measures and recommendations, such as increased documentation of violations of international humanitarian law and stronger efforts to fight impunity.

Unfortunately, it is a matter of fact that the humanitarian principle of helping people in need falls victim time and again to political manoeuvring, thereby jeopardising many lives. The Security Council negotiations in mid-July on the resolution providing cross-border humanitarian assistance for Syria are only one example. A compromise that Germany lobbied for enabled at least a portion of the assistance to be maintained.

Germany will continue to use its political influence to help ensure compliance with the principles of international humanitarian law and safe access for humanitarian aid workers. The people who work hard every day to alleviate others’ suffering deserve universal appreciation and recognition.

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