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UN pays tribute to women humanitarians on World Humanitarian Day

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has honoured the contribution of tens of thousands of women humanitarian aid workers who provide life-saving support to vulnerable people caught up in crises in some of the world’s most dangerous places.

“The work of women humanitarians makes a ‘huge difference’ to the lives of millions of women, men and children in urgent need, the United Nations chief said in his message for World Humanitarian Day.

“From supporting civilians caught up in crisis to addressing disease outbreaks, women humanitarians are on the front lines. Their presence makes aid operations more effective by increasing their reach,” he said in a video message, calling on world leaders and parties to conflict everywhere to live up to their legal obligations to protect all humanitarians from harm.

Across the globe, 250,000 aid workers are women – a figure that amounts to more than 40 per cent of the humanitarian workforce. But aid work is becoming increasingly dangerous. Since August 2003, more than 4,500 aid workers of all genders have been killed, injured, detained, assaulted or kidnapped while carrying out their work. That equates to five attacks per week on average. Women humanitarians are at particularly high risk of robbery, sexual assault and other violence.

The UN Humanitarian Day is commemorated each year on 19 August, the date back in 2003 when the UN headquarters in Baghdad was targeted by a large terrorist truck bomb, killing 22 people, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN’s top representative in Iraq.

This year’s focus salutes the efforts of women humanitarian workers across the world who rally to people in need and are often the first to respond and the last to leave.

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