The United Nations on Monday reaffirmed its demand for the protection of humanitarians by world leaders and parties to conflicts around the world.
In separate messages to mark the 10th World Humanitarian Day, top officials of the organisation emphasised the rights of all humanitarian workers to protection under international law.
The day commemorates the Aug. 19, 2003 car bomb attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, which left 22 staff members dead.
This year’s event focuses on the efforts of women humanitarian workers across the world “who put their lives at risk to promote peace and development” around the world
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that as part of the event, the UN Staff Union hosted a wreath-laying ceremony at the organisation’s headquarters in New York.
In his message, UN Secretary General António Guterres, decried the continued “serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law around the world”.
Guterres said since the 2003 attack in Iraq, no fewer than 4,500 aid workers of all genders had been killed, injured, detained, assaulted or kidnapped on duty.
This, according to him, translates into an average of five attacks per week, and 280 victims in a year or five in every single week.
“Last year saw the second highest number of attacks on aid workers on record, with 405 aid workers attacked, 131 killed, 144 wounded and 130 kidnapped in a total of 226 separate incidents”, he said.
Guterres said that member states, regional and international bodies must rise up to the occasion and ensure that perpetrators were investigated and prosecuted.
Speaking on women humanitarians, he said they made a “huge difference” to the lives of millions of women, men and children in urgent need.
According to him, 250,000 aid workers around the world are women, a figure that amounts to more than 40 per cent of the humanitarian workforce.
“From supporting civilians caught up in crisis to addressing disease outbreaks, women humanitarians are on the front lines.
“Their presence makes aid operations more effective by increasing their reach.
“It also improves the humanitarian response to gender-based violence, which increases during emergencies,” the UN Chief said.
At the wreath-laying ceremony, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, said that those attacking the UN “want to make us afraid, feel weak or to retreat.
“Losing so many of our staff members and personnel all over the world is a terrible blow to our mission.
“But at the same time, I know that you will never lose faith in the role of the UN and that we will each in our own way remain determined to fulfil our reponsbility to work for peace, development and human rights.
“Today, as we honour those who inspired us to be bold and determined to go forward, let us reinvest our courage.”
She said that he UN was doing more to “address the needs of surviving staff, as well as families of the victims in their long journey of healing”.
President of the General Assembly, Ms María Espinosa, said that humanitarian workers “make a real difference in people’s lives through their commitment, sacrifice and tireless resolve to bring assistance and relief to people in crisis”.
She paid tribute to all women humanitarians “who do not spare efforts to put themselves, daily, on the front lines of dangerous and challenging situations to deliver assistance and to promote peace in the world”.(NAN)