Compassion in the Face of COVID-19: World Humanitarian Day 2020

Statues of female steel workers with facemasks

19th August 2020

World Humanitarian Day was created by the United Nations eleven years ago and it occurs annually on the 19th of  August. The aim of World Humanitarian Day is to celebrate the work of humanitarians and to show support and gratitude for their work. The United Nations’ definition of a humanitarian is someone who dedicates their life to helping others. 

World Humanitarian Day was established as a result of the 2003 bomb attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad in an effort to commemorate the 22 lives lost and appreciate the hard work that humanitarians undertake on a daily basis. Humanitarians tragically lose their lives each year, for example in 2019, 90% of the 1,009 worldwide attacks were on healthcare staff. Since the 2003 bombing many humanitarian groups have organized campaigns across the globe for World Humanitarian Day. The purpose of the campaigns is to advocate for safety and security for humanitarians and for the survival and dignity of people in crisis. 


“In 2019, 90% of the 1,009 worldwide attacks were on healthcare staff”

Each year there is usually a theme for World Humanitarian Day. In 2019 the theme was female humanitarians and the UN shared 24 real stories about the lives of humanitarians to represent each hour of the day. They all have very different roles but the one thing they all have in common is that they are human; they all experience moments of joy and moments of frustration just like everyone else in the world. 

The humanitarian efforts to combat Covid-19 will of course be the focus of this year’s World Humanitarian Day because humanitarians have been courageously helping the public during Covid-19. They have put others before themselves. It has been an unprecedented challenge that humanitarians have committed their time, efforts and lives to fighting against. Humanitarians face extra challenges in communities where there is conflict, regular outbreaks of diseases or natural disasters. Emergency two way telephone lines have been set up for humanitarians to communicate with one another and access healthcare resources. Due to the quick spread of Covid-19 and the travel restrictions that were put in place humanitarians were at a higher risk of burnout.  

Young people have been involved in the humanitarian response to Covid-19. They have used social media to share important and reliable information about Covid-19. The hashtag #RealLifeHeroes can be used across social media platforms for everyone to show their appreciation for humanitarians.  



Featured photo by United Nations




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