World Humanitarian Day: A Call for Advocacy and Acknowledgement

By Julian Lennon and Tassoula Kokkoris
Heavens Above by Julian Lennon

At the request of the Iraqi government, on August 14, 2003, the United Nations Security Council officially formed the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The country needed help fostering better relations with their neighbours, as well as promoting unity amongst its own citizens in the wake of a recent invasion.

The group’s base of operations was the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, which the U.N. had used for over a decade as their headquarters. Workers, journalists and locals shared meals at the hotel, used the reliable WiFi and met on-site with friends and colleagues. The United Nations Special Representative, Sérgio Viera de Mello, had an office there. There was also a spinal cord injury treatment centre in the hospital next door.

Five days after UNAMI began operations, around 4:30 p.m., a suicide bomber drove a cement truck—carrying what was estimated to be a 500 lb. aerial bomb— directly into that hotel. This act of terrorism killed 22 people from 13 different countries, including many civilians and Viera de Mello, who survived the initial blast, but died beneath the rubble before he could be rescued.

His prophetic warning the previous month that “The U.N. presence in Iraq remains vulnerable to anyone who would seek to target our organisation,” haunted aid workers and the UN significantly reduced their presence in the country in the weeks that followed for the safety of their team. The UNAMI group, however, was resilient and continues its work to this day.

In 2008, the General Assembly adopted a resolution to designate August 19th as World Humanitarian Day. It is meant to acknowledge the efforts of humanitarians worldwide and “advocate for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises, and for the safety and security of aid workers.”

Why do we need humanitarians?

Unfortunately, despite many advancements in peacekeeping, our planet is still suffering from a variety of crises. 1 in 23 people across the globe require some form of protection or humanitarian assistance. Without the dedicated people working to reverse the bad actions and behaviours of those who cause the unrest, our world would likely be unbearable. These are just a few of the places experiencing severe humanitarian issues today:


Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, the oppressive group has restricted freedom of the press, removed basic human rights for women, and triggered an economic collapse that has resulted in food insecurity and malnutrition for the majority of its citizens. Over 1,000 civilians have died as a result.


The ripple effect of COVID-19 and natural disasters, coupled with 4.6 million displaced Afghan refugees living within the country, compounded by the ongoing battle for women’s rights make Iran a country in a perpetual state of high alert. Over 500 people have died in protests since last year.


Though Sudan had been in peril for nearly two decades due to the Darfur Genocide, their situation escalated when the current war between the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support forces broke out in April of this year. 2.2 million residents have been displaced as a result, and over 2,000 have been killed.


The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022 triggered Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War 11, displacing more than 13 million people, killing nearly 9,000 and injuring over 15,000. Despite many setbacks, Russian forces show no signs of slowing.


Called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, the civil war that has raged on in Yemen for eight years has resulted in over 377,000 deaths. 80% of the country cannot access basic services or adequate food. Their health system has collapsed, which has left women especially at risk. It’s estimated that one female dies every 2 hours from preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Furthermore, violence and human trafficking of girls has escalated amidst the chaos.

What can we, as individuals, do to help?

Here is a short list of reputable places that support relief for the crises mentioned above:

  • Women for Afghan Women has had a presence in Afghanistan since their founding in 2001; in the wake of the recent takeover, they remained in-country, shifting their work to provide services within the current situation. They are in need of funding to continue their mission.
  • Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran promotes human rights and democracy in Iran by documenting assassinations, capturing the stories of survivors, researching and publishing reports and archives for international reference. In addition to accepting donations, they invite documentation contributions to complete or correct their living history projects.
  • The UN Sudan Relief Humanitarian Fund provides in-the-moment, direct financial assistance to those in the region as new challenges emerge.
  • World Central Kitchen, under the direction of acclaimed chef Jose Andrés, has been on the ground feeding refugee communities in neighbouring countries of Ukraine since the conflict began. They need ongoing support to remain on-site and provide meals.
  • Save the Children has a fund specifically earmarked to help malnourished and poverty-stricken kids in Yemen. They continue to accept donations to replenish supplies.

If you’re unable to help with a financial donation, Amnesty International offers several free ways to make a difference with advocacy campaigns, as does Global Citizen

Above all else, when you can, please express gratitude and spread awareness for the countless humanitarians on the front lines, dedicated to achieving a more peaceful world for us all …

“Heavens Above, 2023” by Julian Lennon is available for purchase at Artsy.

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Karen Salvatore
Karen Salvatore
August 19, 2023 00:49

It’s a shame these people can’t find love in there heart and love for one another to stop all this senseless loss of life. The woman of these countries I feel so much empathy, treated like 2nd class citizens has so demoralizing for them. Primitive Healthcare when baring beautiful children it’s shameful treated worse than animals. May God strike down on the evil that exists in these countries. I pray there will be a rising of good and it shall prevail forever. Thank you for taking the time to share this information. God bless.

Kim Walker
Kim Walker
August 19, 2023 13:55

Thank you for giving not only attention to these matters, but for providing reputable sources where anyone can help! Thank you for the good works that you do and for the White Feather Foundation!

Darraugh Timney
Darraugh Timney
August 20, 2023 02:38

Spreading the word. Informative read. 🙏

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