World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day is observed annually on August 19th. The purpose of this holiday is to honor all of the humanitarians who have tirelessly worked to further and promote a variety of humanitarian causes, all over the world. It is also a day to remember those people who have lost their lives in the service of a humanitarian cause.

The final purpose of this U.N. sanctioned holiday is to raise the public’s awareness about humanitarian assistance activities that occur all over the globe and the importance of countries coming together to solve the world’s problems.

History of World Humanitarian Day

Established by the United Nations General Assembly on December of 2008, World Humanitarian Day would become a holiday the epitomized one of the main purposes of the United Nations itself – to bring countries together to solve humanitarian issues.

August 19th was chosen as the date for this holiday to be observed because that is the date when the Canal Hotel in Baghdad was bombed and over 20 people lost their lives – including Sergio Vieira de Mellothe, the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq.

World Humanitarian Day was officially celebrated for the first time on August 19th, 2009. Over the last few years alone, thousands of humanitarian works have died all over the world trying to get help to those who need it.

Today, more than 130 million people are currently in crisis and are in need of humanitarian services of some sort. Services which include rebuilding after a natural disaster, helping people with the food and clean water they need or making sure that people have adequate access to medical attention.

It is estimated that in an average year, over 200 million people will be directly affect by natural disasters. It strikes women and children especially hard because in many areas, these two groups of people are already dealing with the ongoing struggles of environmental decline, poverty, hunger, lack of clean water and poor health.

And each year brings a brand new set of challenges that have to be overcome all over the world. Which, in turn, increases the need for humanitarian workers.

World Humanitarian Day Customs & Traditions

World Humanitarian Day can be observed by honoring those humanitarians who’ve made a difference, by getting the word out about the holiday, advocating for the people who may need humanitarian assistance or by donating time and money to a humanitarian cause.

Organizations all over the world may host of a variety of different events on this day. These events may include lectures, exhibits, presentations, debates or other such activities. A variety of fundraisers may also be held on this day.

These can include charity concerts, blood drives, or food drives. Every year, the United Nations presents a different theme for World Humanitarian Day. These themes are intended to bring attention to a particular aspect of humanitarian assistance activities and/or the problems these workers have to deal with.

For instance, in 2010, the theme of this holiday was “We are Humanitarian Workers;” In 2013, the theme was “The World Needs More…;” and in 2016, the theme was “One Humanity.”

Facts About Humanitarian Aid That Everyone Should Know

Humanitarian aid is extremely important to people and communities around the world, yet many people really don’t have an idea of what it’s all about. People may know that their tax money or their donations are going to a humanitarian organization or agency, but they really don’t know what happens when it gets there.

While we can’t illuminate everything there is to know about humanitarian aid in the world, what we can do is list some of the things that we know about humanitarian aid. We hope the following points not only educate people a little bit more on this subject but also encourage them to do their own research.

  • The first global aid relief effort happened during the 1876 Great Northern Chinese Famine. This disaster killed nearly 10 million of China’s rural population.
  • One of the first cases of humanitarian aid that opened many Americans’ eyes to the importance of aid was the 1983-1985 Ethiopian Famine.
  • Live Aid was an event that was organized by singer-songwriter Bob Geldof and raised approximately €30 million. This would set a precedent for future humanitarian aid campaigns.
  • In 2017 alone, over 150 humanitarian aid workers were attacked while doing their jobs. This highlights just how dangerous their jobs can be.
  • Currently, it’s been estimated that over 164 million people are in direct need of humanitarian aid.
  • In 2014, the U.S. spent about $2.7 billion on humanitarian aid.
  • In 2017, the global communities contributed over $27 billion of foreign aid towards humanitarian relief efforts.

Observing World Humanitarian Day

On this day, everyone is encouraged to do their part—no matter how small or how large that part may be.

People can give their money to a humanitarian aid organization, they can contact their elected leaders and let them know just how important humanitarian aid is to them, and they can do some humanitarian aid of their own in their communities. People can also spread the word about this holiday online by using the hashtag #WorldHumanitarianDay.

When is it?
This year (2023)
August 19 Saturday
Next year (2024)
August 19 Monday
Last year (2022)
August 19 Friday
Awareness & Cause, United Nations