World Humanitarian Day

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

The final purpose of this U.N. sanctioned holiday is to raise public awareness about humanitarian assistance activities that occur globally 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 in December 2008, World Humanitarian Day has become a holiday that epitomizes one of the main purposes of the United Nations itself – to bring countries together to address humanitarian issues.
August 19th was chosen as the date for this holiday because that is the anniversary of the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad, where over 20 people lost their lives – including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations 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 past few years alone, thousands of humanitarian workers have died worldwide trying to deliver aid to those in need.
Today, more than 130 million people are currently in crisis and in need of humanitarian services of some sort. Services include rebuilding after a natural disaster, providing people with food and clean water, or ensuring that people have adequate access to medical attention.
It is estimated that in an average year, over 200 million people will be directly affected by natural disasters. This strikes women and children especially hard because, in many areas, these two groups are already dealing with ongoing struggles such as environmental decline, poverty, hunger, lack of clean water, and poor health.
Each year brings a new set of challenges that must be overcome worldwide, 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 have made a difference, by spreading the word about the holiday, advocating for those who may need humanitarian assistance, or by donating time and money to a humanitarian cause.
Organizations worldwide may host a variety of events on this day. These events may include lectures, exhibits, presentations, debates, or other activities. Various 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 challenges these workers face.
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 don’t have a clear understanding of what it entails. People may know that their tax money or donations are going to humanitarian organizations or agencies, but they may not know what happens to it after that.

While we can’t cover everything there is to know about humanitarian aid, we can list some facts about it. We hope these points not only educate people a bit more on the subject but also encourage them to conduct their own research.

  • The first global aid relief effort occurred during the 1876 Great Northern Chinese Famine, which killed nearly 10 million of China’s rural population.
  • One of the first instances of humanitarian aid that opened many Americans’ eyes to its importance was the 1983-1985 Ethiopian Famine.
  • Live Aid was an event organized by singer-songwriter Bob Geldof and raised approximately €30 million. This set a precedent for future humanitarian aid campaigns.
  • In 2017 alone, over 150 humanitarian aid workers were attacked while doing their jobs, highlighting the dangers of their work.
  • Currently, it’s 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, global communities contributed over $27 billion in 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 large that part may be.

People can donate to a humanitarian aid organization, contact their elected leaders to express the importance of humanitarian aid, or engage in humanitarian efforts within their own communities. People can also spread the word about this holiday online by using the hashtag #WorldHumanitarianDay.

When is it?
This year (2024)
August 19 Monday
Next year (2025)
August 19 Tuesday
Last year (2023)
August 19 Saturday
Awareness & Cause, United Nations