World Humanitarian Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 19, 2015

Today we salute the unsung heroes who venture out to some of the most dangerous places on earth and risk their lives to save others.

It is almost inexpressible that last year, at least 329 humanitarian aid workers around the world were victims of major attacks, more than 100 were kidnapped, scores were wounded, and 120 died in the service of millions of people in need.

These aren’t just numbers. They measure the sacrifice of committed men and women around the world who work on the front lines of conflict and often become targets. They represent leaders and community members in Iraq who strive to uphold humanitarian principles in the face of ISIL’s brutal campaign of violence and terror. They represent workers on multiple continents who vaccinate children and educate youth, knowing that militants may gun them down for doing so. They represent doctors who perform emergency surgery in dark, bombed-out hospitals in Syria, and health care workers who risk their lives to treat people with Ebola in West Africa.

Tragically, the world has lost some of its bravest and most compassionate humanitarians to acts of senseless violence. Most aid workers who are killed in the line of duty are not expatriates. They are local staff hired by charities and NGOs, people who do vital work in volatile places. Assaults on these heroic humanitarians—and lack of access to the hardest hit places—make it more difficult for them to deliver food, water, medicine, shelter, and provide the protection that vulnerable civilians desperately need.

Consider the extraordinary measures these incredible people take day in and day out just to do their jobs. They avoid roadblocks, sleep in tents, partner with local charities, and negotiate with village elders and local officials to get critical supplies to where they’re needed most. They find ways to reach people who would suffer or even die without help. They fight famines and epidemics. In places marred by insecurity, hatred and fear, they offer safety, compassion, and hope.

Through dark days, aid workers find ways to bring light to communities all over the world – and they do it with grace and grit, fearlessness and determination. We proudly salute their courage and resilience. And we pay tribute to the sacrifices they make in a world where each is connected to all.