This World Humanitarian Day we at UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, are celebrating all of the humanitarian—from generous people like you to our dedicated staff, network of committed volunteers and supportive locals in host countries—who are doing their bit, working hard and making the world a little easier for the millions of children, women and men who have been forced to flee.
But World Humanitarian Day was started after a day of heartbreak and loss. Every year, this special day falls on 19 August, the day in 2003 when 22 aid workers were killed and over 100 were injured in a bombing at the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq.
The bombing claimed the life of former UNHCR staff member Sergio Viera de Mello (pictured above) who was the Special Representative for the UN Secretary General to Iraq at the time. In his years working for UNHCR, Sergio dedicated his life to helping people fleeing war and conflict in places like Bangladesh, Sudan, Lebanon and the Balkans.
More than 40 UNHCR staff members have been killed and dozens more have been injured and kidnapped over the years. UNHCR’s Vincent Cochetel (pictured above) was held hostage for 317 days in 1998—you can watch his TedX talk about his experience here—but today he continues to help those fleeing conflict and persecution as UNHCR’s Director of the Bureau to Europe.
Despite the risks, with the support of people like you, UNHCR’s frontline staff are more committed than ever, working harder than ever, in hotspots across the world. Together we are delivering life-saving assistance and protecting millions of people.