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Protect those who work to protect children and families: UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake

2014-08-19

Statement on World Humanitarian Day

NEW YORK, 19 August 2014 – “The nature of humanitarian work is often dangerous.  Aid workers endure harsh conditions and risk harm to save lives, rebuild communities, and bear witness in conflicts, catastrophes, and crises. 

“These emergencies have increased in both frequency and complexity.  So, too, has the risk to humanitarian workers – and the death toll among them has risen accordingly.
 
“Consider only the last month:
 
“In South Sudan, humanitarian workers have been killed by armed fighters while supporting the mission to reach malnourished children before it is too late. 
 
“In Gaza, aid workers have lost their lives in shelling attacks while providing critical care to the sick, the wounded, and the dying, and comforting families of the dead. 
 
“In Sierra Leone, in Liberia, in Guinea, health workers trying desperately to save lives in the Ebola epidemic have succumbed to the deadly virus themselves.  Others have been threatened with bodily harm for trying to stop the spread of the disease.
 
“This is only a few weeks; the 12 months prior have seen the loss of many more lives. The year 2013 recorded the greatest number of casualties among humanitarian workers.  Early this year, an attack on a restaurant in Afghanistan killed four aid workers, including two UNICEF nutrition and health colleagues.  
 
“The loss of these heroes is a loss to the entire humanitarian community – and the world.  On World Humanitarian Day, we mourn their deaths and mark their sacrifice.  We also honour the dedication of all the brave women and men who continue to do their jobs every day despite the risks – in the service of our common cause: A more safe, just, and peaceful world.

“But we must do more than pay tribute to our colleagues and friends.  We must demand protection wherever possible for those who protect the lives of others, and for those most in need of that protection: children.  For the increase in humanitarian crises must not be allowed to decrease our common sense of humanity. “

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About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.