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Horn of Africa, 22 August 2011: On World Humanitarian Day, the UN celebrates the extraordinary efforts of aid workers

By Priyanka Pruthi

NEW YORK, United States, 22 August 2011 - From the Horn of Africa to Haiti, Pakistan and Japan, millions of aid workers are working tirelessly to help those in need. They brave danger and take on the greatest risks in countries far away from their homes to help others rebuild their lives, survive war and battle disease.

VIDEO: UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon honours humanitarian workers who lost their lives in the struggle to save others, and urges the world to step up its response to the crisis in the Horn of Africa. Watch in RealPlayer

Today, on World Humanitarian Day, the United Nations paid a tribute to those who’ve lost their lives in humanitarian service and celebrated the extraordinary efforts of those who continue to provide life-saving assistance to millions. This year’s theme ‘People Helping People’ marks the achievements of workers standing on the frontlines of humanitarian crises and aims to inspire everyone to examine their own lives and consider what more needs to be done to reach out to those enduring hardship.

At an event held at the United Nations General Assembly Hall, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon honoured aid workers and thanked them for their dedication. “This is a celebration of men and women around the world who have decided to dedicate their lives to helping others,” he said. “The decision shows us a glimpse of a better world where people help people no matter who they are, where they are from or what they believe.”

World Humanitarian Day commemorations included a new website launched by The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the world premiere of ‘If I could change,’ a music video featuring Ziggy Marley, Somali band Sweet Rush and Pakistani musician Salman Ahmad amongst others.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1337/Markisz
UN Under Secretary-General Valerie Amos, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake at the UNHQ during the World Humanitarian Day launch.

‘Human catastrophe’

At a time when the world is watching one of the biggest humanitarian disasters unfold in the Horn of Africa, leaders highlighted the need for governments, civil groups and ordinary citizens to step up and give more.

VIDEO: UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake makes an urgent call to action on behalf of millions of children in the Horn of Africa who face death due to starvation. Watch in RealPlayer

“This time our eyes and heart are fixed on the people of the Horn,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. ”Humanitarians are on the ground saving lives but we are still not reaching all the people who need our help and the crisis has still not peaked… we still need more than a billion dollars for our life-saving aid operations. This day should prompt partners to give more.”

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake reminded the international community that the human disaster in the Horn of Africa is now becoming a human catastrophe. More than 300,000 severely malnourished children are on the verge of death.

“In Somalia, almost one and one half million children are affected by this crisis,” he said. “In fact it is always the children, the most vulnerable who suffer the most and this is in many ways a children’s crisis. Their plight demands and deserves our most urgent, bold and sustained response.”

Call to Action

UNICEF has scaled up its operations and is rushing humanitarian supplies in by air, land and sea to the Horn of Africa, where an estimated 1.15 million children under five are currently acutely malnourished. The organization is working to save children’s lives through partners, including areas of southern Somalia where others are unable to work or are barred from operating.

“In Somalia, UNICEF has established hundreds of nutrition centres and programs reaching more than a million people with water and sanitation efforts and is planning a measles vaccination programme to reach two million children but that is not enough…not nearly,” said Mr. Lake. “The crisis has not peaked. There will be no major harvest till the end of this year, the beginning of next year. And it will get worse.”

The Executive Director went on to express his admiration for the extreme courage shown by the families facing disaster each day in the Horn of Africa, stating: “They are like our lost colleagues and those aid workers braving dangers around the world, they are heroes.”

 

 
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