Celebrate World Humanitarian Day and Share Humanity

With the devastating effects of the Nepal earthquake earlier this year and the Syrian civil war decimating over 22,000 people, with almost half of the population displaced, the diligent presence of NGOs at these scenes is imperative. Thousands of humanitarian workers, from local bodies or international organizations like Concern Worldwide rush to ensure that the survivors are provided with the most basic human rights, including shelter and food.

The significance of this day coincides with the anniversary of the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad which led to the death of twenty-two people, one of whom was the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. A few years following that tragic incident, the General Assembly of UN established World Humanitarian Day and for the first time, it was observed in August 2009.

In an effort to recognize their dedication and commitment to humanitarian work, and to commemorate those who have lost their lives accosting danger and adversity, this year’s theme is “Inspire World’s Humanity.” Through this message, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners wish to invite all of you to join a humanitarian organization and become active participants in the call to inspire humanity.

To further shed light on the indefatigable endeavours of humanitarian workers, I decided to briefly interview two of our staff members who have shown admirable resilience and altruism by providing life-saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in various locations around the world. In this brief dialogue, they touch on the most recent humanitarian project they took part in and discuss what it means to be a humanitarian worker in a world where the importance of humanitarian work is abundantly clear.

Gabby Gerlach in Pashawar, PakistanGabriela Gerlach, who is a program officer at Concern Worldwide US, specializing in grants management for the OFDA (Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance) and USAID (United States Agency for International Development) with plans to take on another project concerning advocacy with a focus on Disaster Risk Reduction and Urbanization, was deployed to Nepal shortly after the earthquake on April 25th. Scheduled to stay for 6 weeks, she began her work by focusing on locating new donors and reporting to pre-existing benefactors in an effort to raise funds. The secured donations were designated to support the implementation of Concern programs which supplied safe drinking water and sanitation for 7,500 people in various communities. Another imperative aspect of her job as a program officer in Nepal consisted of collaborating with other INGOs, NGOs, as well as the government of Nepal to conduct focus group discussions and key informant interviews within villages to effectively analyse the information and draft a needs assessment report underlining the immediate needs of the residents within the region.

Gabriela or as we like to call her Gaby around the office, addressed my second question of what it means to be a humanitarian worker in a laconic and yet perfect manner. She responded a humanitarian worker is

“someone who works to end human suffering and ensure that people in need around the world have the same rights and dignities that we do, regardless of their nationality, race, class, religious belief and/or political opinion.”

Crystal Wells in Mogadishu, SomaliaCrystal Wells is another staff member at Concern Worldwide US whose relentless hard work has covered a spectrum of great work in reporting stories from multiple field visits. She connects with unheard voices and strives to evince the adversity others have experienced in various parts of the world as a result of a crisis.

In a brief interview, I asked Crystal, our Senior Communications Director, about the most recent crisis in which she provided humanitarian aid and the details of her work. She responded, “I traveled in June to the Central African Republic, one of the poorest countries in the world where recent ethnic and sectarian conflict has displaced more than 800,000 people. Concern is providing clean water, nutrition services, and livelihoods opportunities to tens of thousands of people, many of whom have been displaced from their homes numerous times as a result of the conflict.

I went there to document the impact of the violence on everyday people and the humanitarian needs. While I left feeling that signs of peace were emerging, the country is still woefully unable to provide even the most basic services to its people, from health care to clean drinking water. Like we do in so many places around the world, we are working in extremely remote communities who otherwise would easily be left behind. It’s this kind of investment and partnership with communities that is essential to helping the Central African Republic progress and hopefully end this very violence and bloody chapter of its history behind. So long as people are unable to meet their most basic needs, instability and violence will be nearly impossible to eradicate.”

In addition to her elaborate response to my first question, she adds,

“I have the honor of telling the stories of what our front-line staff do day in day out in some of the toughest places on earth. I continue to be humbled and inspired by my colleagues who literally dedicate their lives to helping others, often risking their own lives and making tremendous personal sacrifices.”

It is important that we celebrate this day by commemorating those who lost their lives while helping those in need and remember to appreciate and applaud those who incessantly serve disadvantaged individuals, ensuring that they have the most basic human rights; health, food, and shelter. So please join us this year in a worldwide effort to inspire others and share humanity.