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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.




Language level

Intermediate: B1


Please add Audio version in Magazine section please , it was very helpful

Hello teona,

Thank you for the suggestion. We are working through the site and changing various aspects at the moment and I will pass on your suggestion.



The LearnEnglish Team

You can't say anything until you live in a situation like that... let's see, i'm grom Colombia (latin america), and near to us, we got Venezuela, it use to be a rich country, even some years ago, people with my nationality went to that country to find a better way of life, but now, its to sad to see how they are right now, i mean, the have serious problems, theres no food right there, no medicine, so much violence, so many hard things, thats why theres a lot of people getting out that country, and they are going to another countries like mine's or, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and many more, the hardest thing is that countries like mines have no oportunities even for us, and with all that people comming to our country it is getting harder, i mean theres people coming just with the purpose of having a job, but theres someones who doesnt find it and at the end they do bad things like stealing people. So its hard, i know the main question was what would i do, so, what i do is just try to understand them, i mean, if i were in a situation like that, what i've do is just going to another country and what i've hope is to find people who understand that i do that just because i need to, not because i want. Sorry for all the writing mistakes, i made my best.

We try to send some usefull things for refugees to humanitarian organizations, or some money.

In order to do something good for someone else, we must see the refugees as humans and not as enemies in our countries.