August 19 is World Humanitarian Day, an occasion to commemorate all the people around the world who've lost their lives in humanitarian service. The date was chosen to mark the August 19, 2003 bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 people, including the UN's Special Representative in Iraq.
George recorded a special message to help get the word out today:
This year, the UN's focus is on highlighting Humanitarian Heroes: people around the world committed to making a difference — many of whom face tremendous danger to do so.
"Last year, more humanitarian workers were kidnapped, seriously injured or killed than ever before," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his Humanitarian Day message. "This is an outrage."
According to the latest report [PDF] from the UK-based NGO Humanitarian Outcomes, 2013 saw 251 separate attacks on aid workers, with 155 killed, 171 seriously wounded and 134 kidnapped. That spike — a 66 per cent increase over 2012 — was attributed to the conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan. And so far this year, an estimated 79 aid workers have already been killed. This infographic shows just where those attacks happened:
As part of its World Humanitarian Day campaign, the UN has put together profiles of dozens of Humanitarian Heroes around the world, along with an interactive map highlighting the places where their work is most needed. It also commissioned a number of Voices from the Field, films showing what humanitarian work is all about. This one showcases the work of Dr. Nene Rukunghu, who treats the thousands of women who've suffered sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
Want to add your voice to help spread the word about humanitarian causes? In connection with World Humanitarian Day today, the UN is launching a new online community called Messengers of Humanity, where you can sign up to share "stunning imagery depicting the human face of conflict and natural disaster, unbelievable but true important facts and figures surrounding the humanitarian state of the world, messages of hope and action and extremely important information that when shared, could really help change the world."