World Humanitarian Day, 19 August


Every year on 19 August, World Humanitarian Day brings citizens of the world together to rally support for people living in crises and to pay tribute to the aid workers who help them.

Emergencies cause immense suffering for millions of people – usually the world’s poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable individuals. Humanitarian aid workers, including health care workers, strive to provide life-saving assistance and long term rehabilitation to disaster-affected communities, regardless of where they are in the world and without discrimination based on nationality, social group, religion, sex, race or any other factor.

Join the #NotATarget movement and demand world leaders do everything in their power to protect all civilians and healthcare workers in conflict.

“Health is a fundamental human right, and attacks on health care are a blatant violation of that right.” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.

WHO Director-General video statement:

Health care is under attack

The sanctity of health care, the right to health care, and international humanitarian law are threatened: patients are shot in their hospital beds, medical personnel are menaced or attacked, facilities are bombed, depriving people of urgently needed care, endangering health care providers, undermining health systems and long term public health goals, and contributing to the deterioration in the health and wellbeing of affected populations.

Essential life-saving health services must be provided to emergency-affected populations unhindered by any form of violence or obstruction.

Even one attack on health care is too many

Attacks on health facilities, health workers and ambulances continue with alarming frequency. According to the data systematically collected by WHO through the Surveillance System on Attacks on Health Care, in the first half of 2018, 107 people died following 354 attacks on health facilities or transportation in 5 countries or territories (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syrian Arab Republic, West Bank and Gaza Strip).

Every hospital destroyed and every health worker killed or injured takes health services away from the people who need them most, often taking many years to replace. Stop attacks on health care.

WHO salutes humanitarian health partners who continue to work in vulnerable settings

“We want protection, like anyone… We are clearly marked with high visibility vests when we work, and when we go forward to help people who have been injured we put our arms in the air as a sign to the soldiers that we are not any threat to them. Still we continue to be targeted.” Rami – a 29-year-old volunteer first responder and mental health support worker.

Health workers put themselves at risk to provide care 

Health workers face danger and adversity in order to help others under challenging circumstances, whether it be in a conflict, natural disaster, disease outbreak or resource-poor settings.

Surveillance System of Attacks on Health Care 

WHO is developing a body of evidence to better understand the extent and nature of the problem and its consequences to health care delivery.  The SSA is a global standardized and systemic approach to collecting data of attacks on health care. This system uses the same methodology across countries to address the knowledge gap of the extent and nature of attacks on health care.

People need reliable access to health care

Attacks on health too often mean that communities lose access to services at a time when they need them most. Reliable access to health care – especially for the most vulnerable – is vital to achieving universal health coverage and to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.

WHO seeks to ensure that:

  • Health workers are protected and can provide health care in a safe and protected environment;
  • Patients have access to health care when they need it most;
  • Parties to conflict understand and uphold their responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law;
  • Health care delivery is not disrupted by attacks; and
  • All forms of violence against health care stop.

Health workers are #NotATarget 

WHO condemns attacks on health care in the strongest terms and demands that all parties to conflict ensure that health is #NotATarget.

Violence against health workers providing care in conflict is prohibited by international law, and has therefore been globally condemned. As well as destroying human life, such attacks inhibit the ability of humanitarian agencies to respond to health emergencies, increasing the vulnerability of civilians in conflict.

This World Humanitarian Day WHO demands that leaders:

  • Do not target health workers, facilities, health transport or patients.
  • Respect the right of all wounded and sick persons to receive medical care.
  • Adopt and promote the UN Secretary-General’s recommendations on the protection of medical care in armed conflict.

Source: WHO