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Protect those who work to protect children and families: UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake

Statement on World Humanitarian Day

NEW YORK, 19 August 2014 – “The nature of humanitarian work is often dangerous.  Aid workers endure harsh conditions and risk harm to save lives, rebuild communities, and bear witness in conflicts, catastrophes, and crises. 

“These emergencies have increased in both frequency and complexity.  So, too, has the risk to humanitarian workers – and the death toll among them has risen accordingly.
“Consider only the last month:
“In South Sudan, humanitarian workers have been killed by armed fighters while supporting the mission to reach malnourished children before it is too late.
“In Gaza, aid workers have lost their lives in shelling attacks while providing critical care to the sick, the wounded, and the dying, and comforting families of the dead.
“In Sierra Leone, in Liberia, in Guinea, health workers trying desperately to save lives in the Ebola epidemic have succumbed to the deadly virus themselves.  Others have been threatened with bodily harm for trying to stop the spread of the disease.
“This is only a few weeks; the 12 months prior have seen the loss of many more lives. The year 2013 recorded the greatest number of casualties among humanitarian workers.  Early this year, an attack on a restaurant in Afghanistan killed four aid workers, including two UNICEF nutrition and health colleagues. 
“The loss of these heroes is a loss to the entire humanitarian community – and the world.  On World Humanitarian Day, we mourn their deaths and mark their sacrifice.  We also honour the dedication of all the brave women and men who continue to do their jobs every day despite the risks – in the service of our common cause: A more safe, just, and peaceful world.

“But we must do more than pay tribute to our colleagues and friends.  We must demand protection wherever possible for those who protect the lives of others, and for those most in need of that protection: children.  For the increase in humanitarian crises must not be allowed to decrease our common sense of humanity. “

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About World Humanitarian Day
In December 2008, the sixty-third session of the UN General Assembly decided to designate 19 August as World Humanitarian Day. August 19 is the date on which a brutal terrorist attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad in 2003 killed 22 people, including UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. World Humanitarian Day honours those, who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and those, who continue to bring assistance and relief to millions. The Day also seeks to draw attention to humanitarian needs worldwide and the importance of international cooperation in meeting these needs.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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For further information, please contact:

Rita Ann Wallace, UNICEF New York, Tel.: 1 212 326-7586, Mobile: +1 917 213 4034, rwallace@unicef.org





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