On World Humanitarian Day, we celebrate those who extend their hands to their global neighbors. Recently highlighted by the famine in the Horn of Africa, humanitarian feats do not have to be so grand, as every effort counts every day of the year. Whether you’re an armchair fund raiser or a grizzled aid worker, there are many steps to getting the job done. And with the globe tipping the scales at 7 billion human bodies, there’s a lot o’ job to be done to help our fellow Homo sapiens.
Help does not always come without risk, as this day proves by commemorating the death of 22 UN staff members killed in Baghdad. ActionAid notes that 242 humanitarian workers were killed, injured or kidnapped in 2010, and of course these risks are often the result of disasters, both natural and political, where far more are in danger than the ones offering to help. In 2008, more aid workers were killed than peacekeeping troops. A Concern Worldwide worker shares the risks of helping in the DRC and the need to relocate when tension rises. The Bangkok Post recalls numerous recently targeted deaths of humanitarian workers.
The current crisis in the Horn of Africa finds locals helping each other. In the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, a Somali woman helps other women affected by the area’s gender-based violence. In Tunisia, a midwife brought aid to Libyan refugees. An International Rescue Committee worker admires the aid of Pakistani colleagues after a flood. Pakistan’s Express Tribune reports that thousands have come to the country’s aid following tragic flooding. Concern depends on its Kenyan crew to better help the organization provide the best assistance. CARE claims that 95% of their staff represent local populations.
From whom does the most aid come and where does it go? The Guardian examined a report by the Global Humanitarian Assistance Initiative and found that top givers include the US, EU, UK, Germany and Spain. Tracking where the aid is distributed, on the other hand, is a sketchy affair. Americans should send a letter to their Congressperson encouraging them to maintain foreign assistance from the US. Global citizens, think you have a great idea to help the humanitarian field and world at large? Enter a video contest to tell UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon your big idea.
Tightening the focus, the real story is the human-to-human contact. A Mercy Corps worker noted the emotional toll taken when helping those in dire need. Yet despite the risk, despite the wear, there are people who dedicate themselves to others, and the world is a better place because of them.