Aid workers often risk their lives to do the work most of us would shy away from. From Iraq to Syria, Libya to Somalia, thousands of men and women work tirelessly each day in the face of insurmountable danger and some have lost their lives in the course of duty. Paying tribute to their spirit, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and humanitarian actors worldwide, celebrated World Humanitarian Day (WHD) across the Asia Pacific.
Across the globe, several events commemorated WHD on August 19 with films, flash mobs, concerts and dance recitals and even movies.
“It brings attention to the work that we’re doing and tries to focus the world on humanitarian work for just one day”, Markus Werne, Head of Office at the OCHA Regional Office in Asia and the Pacific, stated at the launch event of WHD in Bangkok. More than 120 people attended the event that included speeches from UN officials, journalists and humanitarian workers as well as dance and musical performances. This year’s campaign asks people to share one word on what they think “#TheWorldNeedsMore” of, turning their voice into action and thus helping millions of people affected by disasters worldwide. As such, the event collected around 300 words, out of which “#love” received the largest number of counts in Thailand.
In Nepal, the athlete Gyanlal Maharjan is on an adventure of a lifetime, riding his bicycle from China to New Zealand. Talking about his motivation, he says, “We’re seeing death and destruction throughout the world and more needs to be done to spread the message of love. The World Needs More #Peace.” Mr. Maharajan’s ride is sponsored by the Nepal Olympic Committee, the Nepal Cyclist Association and National Sports Council and will continue for the next one year. In his efforts to promote peace along his route, he is meeting humanitarian agencies and government officials to find out how they support peace processes in their regions. “I came from Nepal to promote world peace throughout the world. This is my mission. For my nation, for my country, for the world”, Mr. Maharajan said.
Other events in Nepal included a commemorative event at the historic Patan Durbar Square and school celebrations with more than 1000 students attending. As a part of the celebration, simulation exercises were carried out and the children were taught about humanitarian advocacy.
In Papua New Guinea, humanitarian partners and academic institutions initiated numerous activities for World Humanitarian Day. More than 100 students attended a WHD school debate, radio talk back shows were aired on two local stations, Kundu TV hosted a television panel discussion with humanitarian partners and a booth in one of the busiest shopping malls in town was organized. EMTV and NBC radio also conducted interviews with UN officials who assured their support for strengthening capacities at the national and provincial level for disaster management.
While in Bangladesh OCHA and Islamic Relief joined their efforts to celebrate WHD, in Japan, OCHA, JICA and the Kobe Institute of Computing organized an event attended by aid workers, disaster management experts, private companies and students to learn about WHD. In Myanmar, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator delivered a statement on World Humanitarian Day, which highlighted the plight of four humanitarian workers from NGOs who remain detained in Rakhine State.
In the Philippines, a one-week exhibition was held in Yuchengco Tower, one of Manila’s tallest buildings with up to 25,000 people passing through per day, with WHD posters and films as well as videos on Typhoon Bopha and related response efforts. Several TV broadcasters and local newspapers covered stories from interviews with OCHA officials in their August issues, giving WHD a broader outreach.
Similarly, Fiji’s celebration of WHD included Sune Gudnitz’s (Head of OCHA in the Pacific) speech at the Hibiscus Festival in Suva, Fiji, which was broadcast live across the Fiji Islands and 10 other Pacific Island countries.
Several public events were also held throughout the campaign in Indonesia, including a commemorative event at Pondok Indah Mall with statements from OCHA and NGO partners, band performances, screening of WHD videos and a photo exhibition. Supported by volunteers, a street promotion campaign was organized together with panel discussions at local universities and a talk show on Trax FM. Moreover, Jakarta Post published an Op-ed with the Head of OCHA Indonesia stating: “As humanitarian needs grow here and around the worlds, the humanitarian community must adapt and find new ways to mobilize and deliver aid, find new supporters, and find new ways to engage with communities to prepare them as well”.
To find out how you can get involved and get further information on World Humanitarian Day, please visit: www.worldhumanitarianday.org