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20 Aug, 2016

Human suffering at highest level since founding of UN

New York, 19 August 2016, (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs): On World Humanitarian Day, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, is calling for increased global leadership to address humanitarian crises.

“Today, the scale of human suffering is greater than at any time since the United Nations was founded. A record 130 million people are now dependent on the United Nations and our many partners for protection and survival because of conflict, disaster or acute vulnerability. On World Humanitarian Day, let us all recommit to humanity and ask what we can each do to make a difference,” he said.

August 19 marks the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations in Baghdad. In 2008, the date was designated by the UN General Assembly as ‘World Humanitarian Day’, to raise awareness of humanitarian assistance worldwide and of the people who risk their lives to provide it. “At the heart of World Humanitarian Day are the aid workers and volunteers who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty,” noted ERC O’Brien. “We thank them for their bravery, their commitment and their conviction.”

Around the world, humanitarian needs have reached record levels and are growing each year. In 2016, 130 million women, men and children in 40 countries are in need of urgent assistance and protection: the highest number since the end of World War II.

“In crises around the world, from Syria to South Sudan, people are forced to make impossible choices – risking violence for food or risking drowning in search of a safe haven – choices that most of us can barely imagine,” warned UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien. “We call on all global citizens to show solidarity, use their voice and demand that world leaders take action.”

Joining the call for action in person are renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Game of Thrones” actress Natalie Dormer, “Arab Idol” winner Mohammed Assaf, Tony Award winner and former “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr., “Quantico” actress Yasmine Al Massri and “The Voice” Season 10 winner Alisan Porter, who will attend a commemorative event at the United Nations Headquarters in New York tonight.

Also speaking at the event is Syrian refugee Hala Kamil, who fled Aleppo with her four children to find safety in Germany. Their story is the subject of the film “Watani, My Homeland” by director Marcel Mettelsiefen, which is now streaming on PBS as the documentary “Children of Syria.” Addressing an audience in the iconic General Assembly Hall just one month ahead of the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, Kamil will call on world leaders to uphold their responsibilities to help the women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes due to conflict.

The call to action follows on the heels of the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, which took place in May in Istanbul. At the Summit, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on global leaders to support his Agenda for Humanity: a five-point plan that outlines the changes that are needed to alleviate suffering, reduce risk and lessen vulnerability on a global scale. Governments, humanitarian organizations, businesses and other stakeholders responded by making over 3,000 commitments to action to achieve the Agenda.

However, massive funding shortages and a lack of long-term solutions are threatening life-saving humanitarian operations in some of the world’s most severe crises. More than halfway through the year, the United Nations and its partners have received less than a third of the US$21.6 billion required to meet the most urgent humanitarian needs in 2016.

Celebrity activists and influencers, including actress Rosario Dawson, entrepreneur Richard Branson, and Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, will amplify this call for change through the World Humanitarian Day digital campaign, “The World You’d Rather.” The online experience gives people the opportunity to use their social voice to demand a world in which they’d rather live. At www.worldhumanitarianday.org, users can take a short quiz – a humanitarian edition of the popular ‘would you rather’ game – that puts them in the shoes of a person coping with humanitarian crisis.