On 19 August 2003, a suicide bomb ripped through the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.
It killed 22 people, aid workers, including top UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
The date was subsequently designated World Humanitarian Day: a day to recognise those who face danger and adversity in order to help others, to honour those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service, and to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the world.
It is a day to also remember that at the heart of humanitarianism is humanity, people from all walks of life working in some of the most dangerous places and conflicts in the world, reaching out to people in need, whether it is the 800 million people who don’t have enough to eat from one day to the next, or the 60 million people who are living as refugees or are internally displaced in their countries because of war or persecution.
World Vision Australia plays a vital role working in complex international contexts, such as those that exist in Syria, South Sudan, Nepal and Sierra Leone, to name only a few.
Today, our thoughts go particularly to Syria and Syria’s children, who have been swept into the greatest exodus since the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago and the worst humanitarian disaster of our time. We think of the children of South Sudan, a country which has so quickly dissolved into conflict and famine, and the children of Nepal who were made homeless by the earthquakes of April and May.
Syria’s despair is approaching five years. In that time, 220,000 people have been killed, 4 million have fled to neighbouring countries as refugees, 7.6 million have been internally displaced, 12.2 million have been left in need of humanitarian assistance.
At least 70 international and Syrian national aid workers have been killed and more than 200 have been abducted. As of February this year, more than 30 were still being held captive.