The British public should take the chance to thank the unsung heroes who risk their lives to deliver aid in warzones and natural disasters, International Development Secretary Justine Greening urged today.
On World Humanitarian Day (today, 19 August), she is calling on as many people as possible to get online and send a message of thanks to humanitarian aid workers, including the British men and women working in some of the most inhospitable places in the world to get help to those who need it most.
She highlighted the challenges that humanitarian workers are facing from the ongoing crisis in Syria, where 6.8 million people are in desperate need of help and nearly 2 million more have been made refugees by the conflict. Food, clean water and medical care is reaching those in need, but at a high cost.
Attacks against aid workers, vehicles and supplies have risen, and those providing help face detention, kidnap and death from all sides. Eleven UN staff members have now been killed in Syria since the fighting started, with 18 more currently detained. A further 20 Syrian Red Crescent volunteers have been killed undertaking humanitarian work.
Justine Greening said:
Britons’ efforts are often a lifeline to those in need. We should be proud of the role that Brits play in providing help in some of the most dangerous places in the world.
They join others from all corners of the world, brought together by a common desire to make a difference. They are often, quite simply, the difference between life and death.
Many people will know someone involved in aid work, so it is great that people can now go online to say thanks. It is about time that we let these unsung heroes know how appreciated they are.
To support the ‘thank you’ message, members of the public are encouraged to get online and tweet or retweet using the hashtag #WHDthankyou or like and share updates on the Department for International Development’s Facebook page.
The UK has now committed £348m for Syria – the UK’s biggest ever funding package for a single crisis. That is providing food, clean water, medical care and other essential support for over one million people inside Syria and in the region.
You can read about three British humanitarian workers who are helping refugees from Syria in our World Humanitarian Day feature.
Notes to editors
- World Humanitarian Day is an annual event designated by the UN General Assembly to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 UN staff. It is a time to recognise those who face danger and adversity in order to help others.
- Security remains one of the most critical challenges for the humanitarian response in Syria. UN agencies and International NGOs are severely restricted in their mobility by on-going fighting, obstruction by the government, lack of respect for humanitarian actors and a multiplicity of armed groups.
- The Syrian government continues to obstruct expanded humanitarian operations. Agencies are still struggling to get visas for their staff, and convoys still require individual approvals. There are currently only 15 international NGOs allowed to operate in Syria.
- The UK is calling on the government of Syria to remove these barriers as a matter of urgency and on all parties to reach an agreement that allows humanitarian workers full, unfettered humanitarian access without interference or threat of violence, and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance by the most effective routes, including across borders.