The Power of Humanity

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World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day Statement by ECW Executive Director Yasmine Sherif

Twenty years ago today, a terrorist attack on the United Nations compound in Baghdad took the lives of 22 humanitarian and development workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

With solemn hearts and firm resolve, we mark World Humanitarian Day and the brave and fearless colleagues who work tirelessly to ensure protection and assistance for those left furthest behind in armed conflicts, climate-induced disasters and forced displacement.

Among them are the 19 aid workers who have tragically lost their lives in the violence in Sudan this year, according to OCHA’s latest report. To echo this year’s World Humanitarian Day campaign, #NoMatterWhat, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the people worldwide who give their lives to empower others through an education amidst a brutal conflict, a dangerous journey from home or a punishing disaster. World Humanitarian Day is also a day to recognize the risks and sacrifices made by those who are having an extraordinary impact on the lives and futures of millions of crisis-impacted girls and boys who urgently need education support in the world’s toughest contexts.

I think of the UN agencies and civil society organizations that I saw just a month ago, working around the clock along the Chad border, receiving refugees from Sudan – the majority being vulnerable children and adolescents with their mothers. Or those who keep negotiating access to, and providing community-based education for, girls in Afghanistan despite the ban.

Humanitarians take risks to save lives – whether by providing education, health, water, shelter, psychosocial services and school feeding. As Martin Griffiths, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, told us in his high-level interview with ECW last year, “I am hard-pressed to think of anything more important than ensuring the education of our children. It is fundamental for the progress of society and our future well-being. Too many children in the world today, especially in crisis settings, are deprived of an education and we have to ramp up investment in this. The Education Cannot Wait initiative is leading the way.”

With strategic partners in the UN and civil society, and not the least our strategic donors, ECW has already reached almost 10 million crisis-impacted children and adolescents, providing protection from violence, school feeding to prevent famine, psychosocial services to address traumas, and both academic and social-emotional development and learning. While working in a humanitarian chaos and disaster, they provide hope and a pathway to millions of children and adolescents, who deserve no less.

Together in crisis, humanitarian and development actors coordinate their assistance and make the seemingly impossible possible through ECW funding investments. Every financial investment means that more girls and boys in Afghanistan, Chad, Syria or Ukraine can go to school – despite the relentlessly brutal crises around them. They face reality head-on and take purposeful action.

As we come together to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals – including SDG4: equitable, inclusive, quality education for all – we must remember the transformational power of education in addressing the multiplying challenges of armed conflicts, climate-induced disasters, forced displacement and other protracted crises. In today’s humanitarian contexts, it is indeed possible to work together to deliver on SDG4 to bring hope to crisis-affected girls and boys.

Today, we honour all those who work in hardship duty stations with a passion and commitment to empower children and adolescents through quality education. The aid workers serving in remote villages and along borders, those caught in crossfires and bombed out towns, and our current and potential strategic donors who make our work for girls and boys impacted by crisis possible through their generous financial support.

Today, we honour all who risk their lives for others in emergencies and protracted crises, and all those who make their noble work possible.

About our Director

ECW Executive Director Yasmine Sherif
Yasmine Sherif

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