Aussie Aid Workers Tribute
Tuesday, 19th August 2014 at 11:56 am
Humanitarian aid agencies in Australia are paying tribute to aid workers around the world, including those who have lost their lives helping others, to mark World Humanitarian Day.
The day was first declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008, five years after the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad claimed the lives of 22 humanitarian workers.
International relief agency, RedR Australia, says it currently has 39 Australians on field assignments around the world, working with UN agencies in response to humanitarian crises.
The agency says that more than half of these skilled experts are based in Syria’s neighbouring countries, supporting the influx of refugees fleeing fighting while others are providing support in logistics, engineering, health, protection, coordination, communications and information management in the Philippines, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Today we celebrate the contributions of humanitarians across the globe,” RedR Australia CEO Kirsten Sayers said.
“We salute our people for their tireless work in the field, often operating in high-stress environments. We will continue to select and train those with the right skills to make a difference, deploying them to where they’re needed most.”
Ongoing conflict in countries including Syria, Central African Republic, Myanmar, Sudan, the Sahel and Afghanistan continues to force people from their homes and seek refuge in safer areas.
Sayers says that without a coherent response from trained, skilled humanitarians, the situation for millions of people would be far graver.
“With climate change and conflict over scarcer resources projected to result in yet more humanitarian emergencies in years to come, their expertise will be called on with increasing regularity,” she said.
The UN children’s fund, UNICEF Australia, has released a public awareness film to commemorate the day, drawing attention to the scope of work undertaken by aid workers around the world.
The video comes as research shows the number of humanitarian workers killed in action has tripled in the past 10 years.
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has set the theme of this year’s World Humanitarian Day as ‘The World Needs More_____’.
Australian logistics specialist, Daryll Ainsworth, recently returned home after coordinating supplies in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp.
“Working in an emergency response really brings home the ‘human’ element of humanitarianism,” Ainsworth said.
“The refugees I work with are just the same as me – they have the same hopes and aspirations for their families, careers and futures – and it is merely circumstance that separates us.
“They deserve the best possible support, from able professionals. It’s a privilege to work in this field and be in a position to help people struggling under highly challenging circumstances.”
The Federal Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which has superseded AusAid, released a statement paying tribute to the thousands of aid workers around the world, including the many who have lost their lives helping others.
“Australia is working actively within the United Nations to achieve greater protection for humanitarian workers,” the statement said.
“Australia has a long and proud history of humanitarian work, both in and beyond our own region.
In the past five years Australia has responded to more than 60 humanitarian emergencies, many of them in the Asia Pacific.
“Many Australians have, and continue to, participate in these emergency and humanitarian responses.”
Visit the World Humanitarian Day website.