Real lives

Real lives


On World Humanitarian Day meet UNICEF Madagascar staff member, Hossein Madad

"Never give up," says UNICEF Madagascar's Hossein Madad.

World Humanitarian Day is a celebration of people helping people. Every day, humanitarian aid workers help millions of people around the world, and on August 19th, World Humanitarian Day gives everyone a chance to honour them, thanking them for the selfless dedication of their lives to humanitarian action for the world's most vulnerable people.

It is also a chance to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrafice. On August 19th, 2003, twenty-two people were killed in an attack on UN headquaters in Baghdad, including the-then UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello. Among the victims was Chris Klein Beekman, UNICEF's programme co-ordinator in Iraq.

Humanitarian Aid workers operate in some of the world's most hostile environments - driven by their commitment to the principles of humanitarian action. August 19th recognises their sacrafices and contributions, as they risk their lives to give others help and hope. 

Here in Madagascar, UNICEF's Hossein Madad is among aid workers bringing vital support to some of the country's most vulnerable children and women. Based in the remote and semi-arid south, where food insecurity leaves thousands of children suffering from severe malnutrition, Hossein works to bring basic social services to 720,000 people living in 53 communes. On a daily basis, Hossein is faced with any number of challenges, including inaccessible roads, difficult living conditions, flooding in the rainy season and drought in the dry season. But this does not deter him. Iranian born Hossein trained as an anaesthetist nurse before dedicating his life to humanitarian work.

"I have been doing humanitarian work for ten years now, without any interruptions. I have worked in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, Kenya, Haiti and now Madagascar. In this time I have come to understand what humanity and impartiality really mean."

But it was an encounter with a severely malnourished child in a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, that bought Hossein to UNICEF. After tracing the girl's progress for seventeen days, her astonishing recovery changed everything for him.

"When she finally got better I couldn't believe how much a child could change in just a few days. It was her eyes that made me change my professional life. I went to study nutrition and since then I have worked for children. I cannot save the world, but every life is worth a world, and so every life counts. We must never give up."

In southern Madagascar, Hossein's work helps to bring vital treatment to thousands of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition; helps to build community capacity to detect severe malnutrition so that it can be treated in the early stages; helps to ensure access to clean water in basic health centres; helps to bring water to remote communities by building wells; and helps to build classrooms to give more children access to education. In short, Hossein's work saves lives.

"When I work with children," says Hossein, "I tell them that they will have a future."



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