Celebrated on August 19th, the World Humanitarian Day was a date to be remembered in 2016. Following the launch of a strong digital campaign called “Would you rather” whereby internet users had to figure themselves in the skin of refugees, the UN has also organized a concert to raise awareness of humanitarian assistance worldwide.

Jan Eliasson participates of wreath-laying ceremony to mark anniversary of UN Headquarters bombing in Baghdad
Jan Eliasson participates of wreath-laying ceremony to mark anniversary of UN Headquarters bombing in Baghdad

During the event, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, called for increased global leadership to address humanitarian crises. “Today, the scale of human suffering is greater than any time since the United Nations was founded. A record 130 million people are now dependent on the United Nations and our many partners for protection and survival because of conflict, disaster or acute vulnerability. On World Humanitarian Day, let us all recommit to humanity and ask what we can each do to make a difference,” he said.

The World Humanitarian Day reminisces the August 19th 2003 bombing of the United Nations in Baghdad. Since 2008, the date celebrates the volunteers and professionals all around the world who risk their lives to build a better tomorrow. The UN efforts answer an increased demand for humanitarian actions – in 2016 only, 130 million women, men and children in 40 countries are in need of urgent assistance and protection: the highest number since the end of World War II.

“In crises around the world, from Syria to South Sudan, people are forced to make impossible choices – risking violence for food or risking drowning in search of a safe haven – choices that most of us can barely imagine,” warned UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien. “We call on all global citizens to show solidarity, use their voice and demand that world leaders take action.”

In the New York United Nations headquarters, a commemorative event was organized with the attendance of the renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Game of Thrones” actress Natalie Dormer, “Arab Idol” winner Mohammed Assaf, Tony Award winner and former “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr., “Quantico” actress Yasmine Al Massri and Season 10 “The Voice” winner Alisan Porter.

Lebanese actress Yasmine Al Massri introduces Hala Kamil, subject of the the documentary 'Children of Syria,' at the One Humanity event
Lebanese actress Yasmine Al Massri introduces Hala Kamil, subject of the the documentary ‘Children of Syria,’ at the One Humanity event

Syrian refugee Hala Kamil, who fled Aleppo with her four children to find safety in Germany, also shared her story, which became the subject of the film “Watani, My Homeland”, and called on world leaders to uphold their responsibilities to help the people who are forced to flee their homes. The call to action follows the World Humanitarian Summit, which took place in May in Istanbul, where the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon summoned global leaders to support Agenda for Humanity. The five-point plan highlights the changes we, as a society, need to promote to alleviate suffering, reduce risk and lessen vulnerability on a global scale. Governments, humanitarian organizations and the private sector heve committed to take actions to achieve the Agenda, although a funding shortage threatens humanitarian operations – the United Nations and its partners have received less than a third of the US$21.6 billion required to meet the most urgent needs in 2016.

In a night to remember, the UN, along with artists, personalities and refugees made the call – is the world ready to listen? Find more at www.worldhumanitarianday.org

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