World Humanitarian Day

A Salute to Our Fellow Humanitarian Workers

by Virginia Sowers, Community Manager

On World Humanitarian Day, ChildFund pauses to honor all humanitarian personnel who’ve lost their lives in the cause of duty and those who have worked in the promotion of the humanitarian cause.

Aug. 19 marks the day when 22 employees of the United Nations, including UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello, were killed in a bomb attack in Baghdad in 2003. Among the dead were two ChildFund employees — Jill Clark, child protection specialist, and Omar Al Orfali, a driver and interpreter.

In November 2008, we lost a staff member in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber attacked a passing military vehicle. Mohamad Shar, who was riding his bicycle in the area when the bomb exploded, suffered lethal shrapnel wounds.

Also in 2008, one of our field workers was kidnapped in the Philippines. Although she was soon released to safety, the incident was yet another reminder of the risks our employees often take in the course of their work.

Here are some sobering stats from 2009:

• 102 humanitarian workers killed
• 92 workers kidnapped
• 139 victims of security incidents such as attacks, ambushes, bombings and mob violence

The majority of humanitarian aid workers come from the countries in which they work. ChildFund, like so many organizations, relies on these professional local partners as we serve children and families in 31 countries. These workers are to be respected for their commitment and helped — not targeted.

On Aug. 19 — and every day of the year — we salute these humanitarian heroes who help us improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children.

A Day to Remember

By David Hylton of ChildFund International
and Jacqui Ooi of ChildFund Australia

Six years ago today, the ChildFund International family lost two of its staff members in Baghdad. An attack on the Canal Hotel in the Iraqi capital on Aug. 19, 2003, claimed the lives of 22 people, including ChildFund staff members Jill Clark, Child Protection specialist, and Omar Al Orfali, a driver/interpreter. 

Today, the inaugural World Humanitarian Day commemorates those individuals, such as Jill and Omar, who have risked – and lost – their lives while carrying out their work to help others.

In November 2008, we lost a staff member in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber attacked a passing military vehicle. Mohamad Shar, 52, was riding his bicycle in the area when the bomb exploded, receiving lethal shrapnel wounds. He left behind a wife and six children.

“This senseless tragedy reminds us all of the challenging circumstances faced daily by so many people around the world,” ChildFund International President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard said following the attack.

“While ChildFund recognizes all those who contribute to making a difference in the lives of others, we pay our utmost respect to those courageous individuals who work on the ground in crisis situations and put their lives on the line,” says Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, a partner organization of ChildFund International.

The United Nations decided in December 2008 to designate Aug. 19 as World Humanitarian Day. This inaugural year, the focus will be primarily on commemorating those whose lives have been lost while engaged in humanitarian operations, but emphasis will also be placed on current humanitarian needs and challenges, and increasing public awareness about humanitarian assistance activities.

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