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Statement by Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day


NEW YORK, 19 August 2009 – “On this, the inaugural World Humanitarian Day, we extend our deepest appreciation and respect to those who selflessly dedicate their lives to humanitarian action for the world’s most vulnerable.

“From Sudan, to Zimbabwe, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Somalia, humanitarian workers display uncommon courage and dedication to helping those caught up in the midst of conflict or violence.

“Today we also pause to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Six years ago, on August 19th, twenty-two people were killed in an attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad, including the-then UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello. Among the victims was Chris Klein Beekman, UNICEF's Programme Coordinator in Iraq. He was 32. This June, UNICEF’s Chief of Education in Pakistan was killed in a car bomb attack at the Pearl Hotel in Peshawar.  Perseveranda So was from the Philippines. She was 52.

“A disturbing trend shows an increase in security incidents against humanitarian workers. In the last decade, more than 700 humanitarian workers have given their lives while striving to help those most in need in some of the world’s most hostile environments. Thousands more have endured bombing, kidnapping, attacks, hijacking, robbery and rape.

“Ensuring the safety of staff is of utmost priority. Providing access for them to carry out their work is a collective challenge and responsibility. Failure to ensure a humanitarian space for the provision of life-saving help is unacceptable and non-negotiable. This day stands as a testament to that and to those who unfailingly commit themselves to the principles of humanitarian action.”

For further information:

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