Each year on August 19, the United Nations honors humanitarian aid workers by celebrating World Humanitarian Day.
The threats to workers are all too real. In 2019, 483 aid workers were attacked: 125 killed, 234 wounded and 124 kidnapped in a total of 277 separate incidents, according to the United Nations.
This year’s celebration pays special tribute to the heroes who have committed their lives to helping others in extreme circumstances, especially those working amid conflicts, insecurity, and risks linked to COVID-19.
Many refugee organizations warn that COVID-19 threatens to turn the current refugee crisis into a full-fledged humanitarian disaster. Before the pandemic, many refugees struggled to earn enough to support their families. Now, millions are in even more dire situations.
HIAS continues to help clients every day during the pandemic. HIAS Ecuador partners with local supermarkets to help asylum seekers buy food with credit; HIAS Israel helped form a volunteer network to deliver food; and HIAS Kenya found ways to deliver services online, including one-on-one mental-health counseling.
Many refugees have given back to their communities. Whether delivering meals or working in hospitals, thousands of refugees around the world are helping their friends and neighbors get through the crisis.
In many countries HIAS assistance is a lifeline, notes HIAS Europe Director Ilan Cohn in a recent blog post in the Times of Israel. But Cohn says there is always more to be done. “We should advocate, along with other faith communities, for our respective governments to find solutions for refugees and their impoverished host countries.”
Some people celebrate the day by donating to a humanitarian organization, doing humanitarian work in their own communities, or contacting elected leaders to let them know humanitarian issues are important to them.