World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day

For a PDF version of this factsheet, please click here.

The UN General Assembly marked World Humanitarian Day (WHD) in 2008 in memory of UN Special Envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 other people killed in a terrorist attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad on August 19, 2003.


World Humanitarian Day was established to acknowledge the work of humanitarian workers around the world who bring assistance and relief to populations affected by disasters, and to honour the lives of workers who died in their line of duty. World Humanitarian Day also draws attention to humanitarian needs worldwide, in addition to the important role international cooperation plays in responding to humanitarian crises.World Humanitarian Day


Dangerous Endeavours

Humanitarian aid is based on a number of founding principles, including humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. Humanitarian workers aim to provide life-saving assistance and help disaster-affected communities to recover, regardless of location and without discrimination based on nationality, social group, religion, sex, race or any other factor. Unlike what many might believe, most humanitarian aid workers in fact come from the country in which they work. It is only common sense that people affected by humanitarian crises are often the first to help their own communities following a disaster.

Providing relief in situations of emergency, which can range from natural disasters to more complex man-made emergencies, is often a dangerous endeavour to those involved. The Aid Worker Security Database provides information on the number of attacks on aid workers between the years of 2003 and 2013. The number of incidents have risen from 63 to 238, and the total number of aid workers either killed, injured or kidnapped jumped from 143 to 442.

In 2013, the UN and its humanitarian partners joined with global celebrities like Beyoncé and leading brands such as Gucci, Barclays Bank, Western Union and Intel to launch a campaign that seeks to turn people’s words into real support for communities affected by humanitarian crises.

The Humanitarian Coalition, with its joint appeal mechanism, is a good example of agencies coming together to collaborate, pool resources, and mount timely responses when disasters strike around the world, often facing risks to the lives of their employees.

Please click here for more information on World Humanitarian Day.