White House statement on World Humanitarian Day

Washington, DC - Eleven years ago today, 22 humanitarian aid workers were killed in a horrific attack on the UN Headquarters in Baghdad.  Their lives were cut short as they worked selflessly to save others.  Each year on August 19 we pay homage to them, their colleagues worldwide who have been killed or injured in the line of duty, and the heroic efforts of those humanitarians currently in the field.

Today, there is an unprecedented need for humanitarians and the spirit they embody. Some 108 million people need humanitarian assistance, and more people have been displaced by conflict than at any time since World War II.  Nearly eleven million Syrians and Iraqis have fled for their lives.  Millions need shelter, food, water, and medical care in the wake of factional fighting in the Central African Republic and a clash among South Sudan’s political leaders has put millions of people at risk of famine.  In these places and others—including Gaza, Somalia, Yemen, and now West Africa with the Ebola outbreak, humanitarians assume great personal risk to help those in need. 

Even as they do their utmost to help the most vulnerable, all too often humanitarians are harassed, kidnapped, or killed for their commitment.  There were 251 incidents of major violence against aid workers in 30 countries in 2013. These attacks resulted in 460 aid workers killed, kidnapped, or seriously wounded; many of them heroic local staff working to help neighbors in need. As the world’s largest humanitarian donor, the United States expresses its deepest respect to these individuals dedicated to serving others.  On behalf of the American people, we are proud to support their work and humbled by their sacrifice. The world needs more of their dedication, selflessness, and courage.

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