John Kerry, Secretary of State
August 19, 2013
This is an important day for all of us to pause and join with our colleagues in honoring the committed staff who work to save the lives of others, often at great risk to their own. World Humanitarian Day is a commemoration of their sacrifice and a sober reminder that our work is far from done.
My family is a foreign service family. We saw what my Dad committed his life to doing in dangerous places and we saw what my mother did to fill in for two parents the times when he was away. I’ve had sisters work at the United Nations and go off to faraway places to help kids in desperate situations. So I know a little on a personal level about the unsung heroes, the humanitarian workers who volunteer to serve on the front lines of some of the world’s most dangerous places. From Algeria to Afghanistan, from Somalia to South Sudan, many have been killed or kidnapped in the line of duty. They show up in places no one else wants to go and they save lives. They literally build safer cities, help children get an education, provide health care in rural communities. The needs are truly global in scale, and so too is our response. Just think about what these incredible people are doing today. For over two years, the brave people of Syria have endured tremendous hardship in one of the largest humanitarian crises in decades. More than 100,000 men, women and children have been killed and 6 million displaced both within and across Syria’s borders. Through these dark days, more than 20 first responders from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, 11 UN staff and others from our NGO partners have been killed while providing much-needed aid in Syria.
In the Sahel, the United States supports the distribution of food and water to the insecure, vulnerable and displaced as a result of regional drought and the crisis in Northern Mali. In Sudan and South Sudan, we provide healthcare, sanitation and protection to millions uprooted from their homes by violence. And in Colombia, Haiti and Ecuador, aid workers deliver emergency assistance to internally displaced persons and refugees.
In a world growing more—not less—interconnected, when our common humanity is threatened, aid workers will be there—this day and every day the world over.