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World Humanitarian Day

20.08.2014 - Article

On 19 August, the United Nations remembers those who have lost their lives working in humanitarian aid. Around the world, more people than ever are in humanitarian need.

On 19 August, the United Nations honours the principles of international humanitarian assistance and remember the aid workers who have died in the line of duty. During the last few years, the number of people in humanitarian need worldwide has risen again. The United Nations has estimated that the global humanitarian need in 2014 amounts to around 13 billion euros, an all-time high. Christoph Strässer, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, called the figures “alarming”.

Refugees in Erbil, northern Iraq
Refugees in Erbil, northern Iraq© Photothek/Imo

As Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier put it at the Extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels last Friday, “This is the first time in decades that so many trouble spots have been flaring up around the world.” The political crises in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Ukraine, South Sudan and the Central African Republic have led to humanitarian crises which are causing millions of people suffering across the globe.

The United Nations (UN) has estimated that humanitarian need in 2014 amounts to around 13 billion euros, an all-time high. Tragically, the number of aid workers killed, abducted or injured in the line of duty has also been higher than ever this past year: there have been attacks on 460 members of relief-agency staff, in which 155 of them lost their lives.

Getting supplies to refugees in northern Iraq

Refugee registration in Erbil, northern Iraq
Refugee registration in Erbil, northern Iraq© Photothek/Imo

Christoph Strässer, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, called the figures “alarming” and said they should draw our attention to the many donors of humanitarian aid, relief organisations and, above all, thousands of humanitarian aid workers who try to alleviate the suffering of people in need. He himself, he said, was spending World Humanitarian Day in northern Iraq to gain an insight into the dramatic humanitarian situation, Germany’s assistance and the efforts of aid workers on the ground. Strässer continued:

People involved in humanitarian assistance are facing ever growing danger to life and limb. Today we are paying particular tribute to the humanitarian aid workers who have been killed, some of them just recently in South Sudan. Compassion and solidarity are inherent to each and every one of us. Let us promote and spread these values!
Loading German aid supplies for Iraq at Berlin-Schönefeld airport
Loading German aid supplies for Iraq at Berlin-Schönefeld airport© DRK

Strässer had arrived in Erbil on Monday (18 August) with a German Government aid flight bringing medical supplies for around 20,000 people in northern Iraq, along with tents, blankets and water canisters. Since the crisis began, the Federal Foreign Office has provided Iraq with 4.4 million euros in humanitarian assistance.

First-aid convoy for Ukraine

Loading the aid aircraft for Ukraine
Loading the aid aircraft for Ukraine© DRK

The German Government is providing humanitarian aid in other trouble spots around the world too. It has made 3.5 million euros available so far for humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine.

As early as March 2014, the German Red Cross organised an initial aid flight to the region containing first-aid rucksacks for treating the injured as well as medical supplies, blankets and ambulances. The equipment was handed over to aid workers at the Ukrainian Red Cross. First-aid courses were also run to train staff for their missions.

First-aid training with the Hungarian Red Cross
First-aid training with the Hungarian Red Cross© DRK

A German Red Cross convoy of nine aid vehicles left Berlin for Kyiv on 12 June 2014, carrying more first-aid equipment and medical supplies such as stretchers, blankets and wheelchairs. The intention is to enhance the operational capability of the Ukrainian Red Cross and promote the development of care centres for the elderly.

Food aid in South Sudan

There is a famine taking shape in South Sudan. Agricultural activity has been largely brought to a standstill by the current political crisis, with the result that more than seven million people are facing acute food insecurity. Humanitarian access to those in need is severely hampered by the fighting.

Wasserpumpe in einer Siedlung im Südsudan
Wasserpumpe in einer Siedlung im Südsudan© picture alliance/dpa

In South Sudan, the Federal Foreign Office is supporting emergency aid projects run by the United Nations, German NGOs and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The focus of the projects is on food aid, access to clean water, sanitary facilities, medical care and emergency shelter. Because of the inadequate infrastructure, financial assistance is also going to the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).

In view of the dramatic developments there, the United Nations expects to need 1.8 billion dollars in humanitarian aid in South Sudan in 2014.

The need for humanitarian assistance has risen in the world’s other crisis regions too – a fact that not only shapes the agenda for aid agencies and the international community on World Humanitarian Day.

More information

www.worldhumanitarianday.org

www.diplo.de/humanitarianaid

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