Statement on World Humanitarian Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Every day, humanitarian aid workers put their own lives on the line to advance the health, opportunity, dignity, and security of others. They do this heroic and dangerous work anonymously and without fanfare. They do it because it improves and saves lives. The United States joins the international community in saluting our humanitarian colleagues for their bravery, their sacrifice, and their service.
Today marks the 10th Anniversary of the terrorist attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq. That devastating event took the lives of 22 individuals, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The team at the UN mission in Iraq had left their families and friends and gone to Baghdad in order to help the Iraqi people build a better future – one where individuals could enjoy stability and the rule of law, basic human rights, and an open and inclusive political system. The August 19 attack was at once a supreme act of cowardice and a sign that terrorist groups had decided to turn their sights on humanitarians.
In the last ten years, the threat to humanitarians has only grown more grave. An estimated 900 humanitarian workers worldwide have died, and countless others have been injured in the line of duty. As recently as last week, after 22 years of operations and the deaths of 16 staff members, Doctors Without Borders announced the closure of its operations in Somalia because of persistent attacks against aid workers. As a result, access to vital health assistance will be dramatically reduced for those who need it most.
On World Humanitarian Day, we mourn the loss of our humanitarian colleagues, celebrate the difference they made, and carry their determination forward. We rededicate ourselves to working to ensure the protection of humanitarian workers everywhere, we condemn those who would target them, and we call on all governments and parties to guarantee that humanitarians have free and unimpeded access to all people in need.