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Humanitarian work in a heartless world

By Ike Willie-Nwobu
27 August 2023   |   2:28 am
On August 19 annually, the United Nations celebrates the World Humanitarian Day. It is an opportunity to celebrate humanity and especially reflect on those who need humanitarian aid and how to help them. Crucially, it is also a day to celebrate and support humanitarian....

On August 19 annually, the United Nations celebrates the World Humanitarian Day. It is an opportunity to celebrate humanity and especially reflect on those who need humanitarian aid and how to help them. Crucially, it is also a day to celebrate and support humanitarian aid workers in the critical but dangerous work they do.

Across the world, almost daily, humanitarian situations break out like open sores. Whether it is conflict or natural disasters, there is always enough to go round and compound human misery. When tragedy strikes, man knows to respond as a matter of instinct and as part of common humanity. As the world has increasingly become a global village, what affects one has increasingly come to affect others. This has ensured that people get to share in the pain and suffering of others.

This has proven supremely important because experience has shown that unless people can share in the suffering of others, they are unlikely to do anything about it. The hardest part of a heartless world is that there would always be conflict. An equally hard part is that aid workers will continue to be caught in the crossfires of these senseless conflicts as they do their best to help victims make sense of what is happening to them.

There is a sense in which most of the world is one big conflict zone. Wherever one looks, there is a tendency to see and absorb the grim. The war in Ukraine, the strife in Syria, the chaos in Haiti and vicious internecine conflicts in Syria and Yemen. In countries like Pakistan, Mali and Burkina Faso, there is no outright conflict, but terrorism appears determined to death that the situation will be short-lived as one crisis after another tools the world severely testing the strands of common humanity.

There is a saying that goes: It takes a village to raise a child. Similarly, it takes a village to support a person in a humanitarian crisis. With record-high humanitarian needs around the world, this year’s World Humanitarian Day (WHD) builds on this metaphor of collective endeavor to grow global appreciation of humanitarian work.

Whenever and wherever people are in need, there are others who help them. They are the affected people themselves – always first to respond when disaster strikes – and a global community that supports them as they recover. Far from the spotlight and out of the headlines, they come together to ease suffering and bring hope.

Around the world, humanitarian aid workers have continued to die, falling victims of the situations they are trying to ameliorate. Of the aid workers who died, 98 per cent were national staff and 2 per cent were international (expatriate) staff – more than half (53 per cent) were staff of national NGOs.

As things stand now, one in every 23 people presently requires humanitarian assistance. In 2023, a record 339 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection – a significant increase from 274 million people at the beginning of 2022. The UN and partner organizations aim to assist 230 million people most in need across 68 countries, which will require $51.5 billion.

East and Southern Africa has the largest need with 76.8 million people. Ukraine, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Lebanon, Mozambique, Myanmar, Yemen remain in serious need of humanitarian assistance.

The world very much remains a giant canvass of suffering and misery. Because the need for conflicts is insatiable in some parts of the world which defy all manner of peace efforts to conjure up war after war, there would always be those who stand in grave need of humanitarian assistance.

The neediest for humanitarian assistance would continue to draw aid workers like magnets do iron. Yet, there must be improved protection for humanitarian workers the world over.

It is especially important for non-state actors to recognize that humanitarian workers are not part of conflicts but play critical roles to save lives and soften the blows of war. They should never be targeted or become targets.
Willie-Nwobu wrote through Ikewilly9@gmail.com

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