World Humanitarian Day – 19th August

Posted on Posted in Children's Rights, Human Rights

On the 19th August every year, the international community commemorates all humanitarians who have lost their lives or became injured contributing to humanitarian causes and those who continue to serve. (UNICEF, 2013) This article will explain the history behind this special day, this year’s theme, the devastating impact that conflict has on children’s rights and the various agencies that provide humanitarian assistance, particularly United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (hereinafter UNICEF).

What is World Humanitarian Day?

On the 19th August 2003, a bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad Iraq killed 22 humanitarian aid workers including special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio de Mello. The Canal hotel bombing was a massive loss for the United Nations (hereinafter UN) and the humanitarian community and it marked a turning point for the need to increase the protection of humanitarian operations in Iraq and worldwide. (United Nations Organisation, 2018)

In 2008 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in order to contribute to increasing public awareness about humanitarian assistance activities worldwide and the importance of international cooperation and to honour all humanitarian and UN and associated personnel who have worked in the promotion of humanitarian cause. (United Nations General Assembly, 2008)

This year’s theme is set to celebrate Women humanitarians and their undying contribution in making the world a better place. Women humanitarians hold a sense of unparalleled uniqueness, one that adds to the global momentum of female strength, power and perseverance. It is time to honour the women who have acted as first responders to the darkest hours of crisis.

This year’s campaign on Women humanitarians supports the recognition that women deserve in the strengthening of global humanitarian response as well as in protection efforts under international law. (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2019)

The devastating impact on children

When children are caught in conflict their layers of protection are effectively stripped away. Family is lost, essentials such as safety, food and water become inaccessible and schools and playgrounds are destroyed. When this happens, children in conflict become vulnerable to recruitment into fighting and to dangers such as sex and labour trafficking (United Nations Organisation, 2018).

For instance on the 26th July 2019 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres submitted his annual report to the Security Council stating that the Saudi-UAE-led military coalition fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels has killed and wounded 729 Yemeni children in 2018. The figure accounts for nearly half of the total child casualties in the war torn and impoverished country. The report states that the Houthis rebels killed and wounded 398 children, as well as Yemeni government forces who were responsible for 58 child casualties. This has resulted in the UN blacklisting the Houthi rebels and Saudi-UAE for third year. (Al Jazeera and News Agencies, 2019)

Humanitarian Action for Children 2019

This year UNICEF’s report notes that more violent conflicts are raging today than at any time since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter CRC) 30 years ago. The report also describes UNICEF initiatives to improve the quality of its humanitarian response in 2019. (UNICEF, 2019) UNICEF and its partners will work towards the following results in 2019:

  • To assist 73 million people including 41 million children
  • In 59 countries
  • A grand total of US $3.9 billion.
  • Nutrition; 4.2 million children to be treated for severe acute malnutrition (hereinafter SAM)
  • Health; 10.3 million children to be immunized against measles
  • Wash; 42.8 million children to have access to safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene
  • Child protection; 4 million children and caregivers to have access to psychosocial support
  • Education; 10.1 million children to have access to formal and non-formal basic education including early learning
  • Cash-based transfers; 1.9 million people to be reached with cash assistance
  • Non-food items; 1.4 million people to receive household items winter clothing and/or shelter (UNICEF, 2019) 

Looking Forward

There is still a lot of work left to be desired in order for UNICEF to achieve its objectives in 2019, however 2018 yielded positive results for the organisation through limited resources. In order to ensure that no child is left behind we must collectively through pressuring our own governments to assist UNICEF through donations. Additionally each individual can contribute to the cause by raising awareness through social media outlets, simply informing your own community about World Humanitarian Day, let us all come together and celebrate World Humanitarian Day. We all at Humanium work tirelessly to raise awareness and help people understand the importance of human rights and their fulfillment; our mission is to contribute to the improvement of a world where our children of today will be the adults of tomorrow.

Happy World Humanitarian Day!

Written by Igi Nderi   

Al Jazeera and News Agencies. (2019, July 28). UN again blacklists Saudi-led forces for Yemen child killings. Retrieved from Al Jazeera News. United Nations:
UNICEF. (2013, August 17). On World Humanitarian Day, aid workers talk about why they serve. Retrieved from UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action:
UNICEF. (2019, January 28). Humanitarian Action for Children in 2019 (Overview). Retrieved from UNICEF :
UNICEF. (2019, January 28). UNICEF Humanitarian Action For Children 2019 Overview. Retrieved from UNICEF:
United Nations Genreal Assembly. (2008, December 11). United Nations General Assembly Resolution. Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations. Retrieved from United Nations Organisation:
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2019). World Humanitarian Day 2019. Retrieved from OCHA:
United Nations Organisation. (2018, August 19). World Humanitarian Day 2018. Retrieved from World Humanitarian Day: