UN World Humanitarian Day

What risks do people face when they are in countries at war? And why are humanitarian workers a target for attacks? The UN's World Humanitarian Day puts the focus on these important questions.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.

'No one is winning these wars. We are all losing.'
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

At the United Nations, 19 August is a day to reflect. It was on this day in 2003 that the UN building in Baghdad was hit by an enormous terrorist bomb. Most of the 22 people who died in the attack had been involved in humanitarian missions in Iraq. Among the dead was Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN's top representative in the country. Every year, the UN commemorates the loss by observing World Humanitarian Day.

What is the objective of World Humanitarian Day?

This is a day to remember the brave humanitarian workers whose daily work can involve terrible dangers and even a risk to their lives. However, it is also a day to build public support for the people at the centre of this humanitarian work: the many millions of civilians around the world whose lives have been affected by conflict. Therefore, 19 August is a day to ask world leaders to commit to protecting vulnerable civilians and to do more to end conflicts in the world.

Where do these conflicts exist?

The UN has recently reported that, at the time of writing, the world's worst humanitarian crisis is in Yemen. Due to war and a shortage of food, it is said that up to 75 per cent of the population (that's about 22 million people) are in need of humanitarian aid and protection. Meanwhile, wars continue in Syria and South Sudan and these are just a few of the countries where conflict is forcing people to live in extreme difficulty or to become refugees.

What risks do humanitarian workers face?

Humanitarian workers must often risk their own lives to provide civilians with food, shelter or healthcare. Sometimes these workers are attacked by people who want to steal food or medicine. Many conflict zones also have big problems with political or terrorist groups who see humanitarian workers as an ideal target to get international attention.

What is #notatarget?

In recent years, the UN has promoted this online hashtag. Its message is very clear. Humanitarian workers have just one mission: to help people in need. And they should be able to do this in safe conditions. They should not be a target. At the same time, these workers travel to very dangerous places to provide aid for innocent civilians who have not chosen to live in conflict. The hashtag also implies that civilians should not be a target.

What can I do?

It may seem as if the problems of the world are impossible to fix, but there are a few things that you can do to help in some way. As a first step, inform yourself about the major humanitarian problems that the world is facing at the moment. With a quick online search, you will probably also find online petitions asking global leaders to increase their help for civilians in conflict zones and for the refugees that come from these situations. Or if you would prefer to help in a more practical way, try following the advice from previous campaigns for World Humanitarian Day: do something good, somewhere, for someone else.


Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.


Worksheet83.04 KB

Language level

Submitted by PARIMALA MADIAZHAKAN on Tue, 23/02/2021 - 03:56

A simple way that we can 'do something good is just share foods and help the poorest people around us. It's the best way to do something good for others. For example, we can our foods for our relative who have in famine situations. If we financially strong , we can help those are in poor. We not need give them our full of financial support. But at least help them to overcome their bad situations. This kind of help lead us to good things. Yes , I like to work as a humanitarian worker. If in future I get opportunity to work as humanitarian ,I definitely involve myself in this matter.

Submitted by Thinthinmyoe on Wed, 27/01/2021 - 04:59

We can share food and money to people in need by using online banking through the organizations of humanitarian.

Submitted by danisep on Mon, 28/12/2020 - 17:09

we can help now in many ways, people around us maybe a neighbor or a relative could be through a bad moment due pandemic, so we can give food, clothes, money or our work to some local organization which needs a hand. Sometimes it feels like we don't have enough but indeed we have some privileges, there are people facing terrible and unimaginable problems.

Submitted by cittàutopica on Thu, 10/12/2020 - 16:08

Regarding the question, I would have liked to work as a humanitarian worker if I had been young, but we must be aware that it's a very difficult job, which demands a high level of professionalism. Everyone can do something for helping the humanitarian work: by offering help (monetary or in kind) to humanitarian organisations, by taking part in campaigns or in petitions, etc.

Submitted by Lilly098 on Thu, 05/11/2020 - 18:36

The simple way I always commit to do for someone else is donation; I normally collect all the clothes I rarely wear and donate it once a year. If I had a chance, I absolutely would like to work as a humanitarian worker. I believe a small change can make a big change. I want to do as many help as I can provide.

Hello sally samy,

One way to help does not mean the same as the only way to help.

There are many ways to help; one of them is to sign an online campaign. Thus, the statement is true.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Min Htet Kaung on Tue, 11/08/2020 - 15:18

Around the world, there are a lot of places which haven't got peace yet. In those places, most of the humanitarian workers have great challenges to serve. To tell honestly, it is not possible for me to work in those places especially Yemen and Iraq. So I really appreciate those humanitarian workers serving in those places. But I want to help civilians living in unpeaceful places. There are some ways for those who want to help civilians in affected areas. We can donate money and other necessary things to charities which are running humanitarian missions.

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Sat, 06/06/2020 - 05:36

This involves voluntary donation and offering of humanitarian services. No. I wouldn't.

Submitted by fidaasiddig on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 18:51

At least we can rise the awareness of the reasons that may have led to the wars like to organise campaigns against racism and hatred

Submitted by parisaach on Sat, 21/09/2019 - 05:36

It is difficult to be a humanitarian, I think I can't be a humanitarian because I can't resist difficult situation, whenever I face to difficult moments I try to scape instead of fighting with my problems. I know it is not good, but it really hard to change myself. Actually I live in a poor country . Our country is not poor but many people in my country don't live in good condition. There are many people who even have no food to eat. I don't help people of other countries, but I've been helping to people of my country many times. I know some poor people in my relatives, who can't work I usually help them and I have some friends who work for charities, They sometimes introduce poor people and we help them .

Submitted by Nunu28 on Mon, 28/01/2019 - 16:57

There are so many ways to help other people in need. We can teach children who does not have a chance to study in school, and make them believe that a goodness is still remain among us. And they will spread the goodness to others. Or, we can write a good comment to counter hoax issues. Actually, conflict may appear because of miscommunication and misunderstanding between us. We can fix it before it becomes bigger issue. Becoming humanitarian worker? I am really love to.