World Humanitarian Day: Supporting humanitarians and the communities they serve #NoMatterWhat

Patty meeting with female IDP leaders in Afghanistan in 2019. Photo courtesy of Patty McIlreavy

August 19 is World Humanitarian Day, an international day dedicated to recognizing humanitarian personnel and those who have died working for humanitarian causes.

Established by the United Nations in 2009 to honor the memory of 22 UN workers killed in a terrorist attack in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2003, World Humanitarian Day is a time to reflect on the work of humanitarians close to home and around the world and to thank them for their dedication and sacrifice. It is a time to raise awareness of the challenges faced by humanitarians and to call for increased support for their work.

In 2023, World Humanitarian Day will occur against a backdrop of growing humanitarian needs worldwide. The war in Ukraine has displaced millions of people, the Horn of Africa hunger crisis continues to expand, and the global climate crisis is creating new and more complex humanitarian challenges.

In this challenging environment, the work of humanitarians is more crucial than ever. They are the closest to those in need, often members of affected communities. They provide food, water, shelter and medical care to those who need it most. They are also working to protect rights and build a more just and equitable world.

In honoring the work of all humanitarians, we commit to supporting their efforts to make the world a better place. This year’s World Humanitarian Day theme is #NoMatterWhat, a reminder that humanitarians “stand shoulder to shoulder with the communities we serve, no matter who, no matter where and #NoMatterWhat.”

Humanitarians work tirelessly to help people in need, no matter the circumstances. They work in war zones, among communities affected by natural hazards and within other humanitarian crises. They work long hours, often in dangerous conditions. And they do it all because they believe everyone deserves to live a life free from suffering.

This year’s #NoMatter theme is a call to action for everyone to get involved in humanitarian work. Indeed, it should be #NoMatterWho, #NoMatterWhere, #NoMatterWhy, that we all seek to help #NoMatterWhat.

You don’t have to leave home to be a humanitarian. Here are a few ways you can display your humanitarianism:

  • Donate to a humanitarian organization. Many great humanitarian organizations are working to help people in need. You can donate to a specific organization that aligns with your interests or values, including my own, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
  • Volunteer your time. There are many ways to volunteer your time to help humanitarians. You can volunteer at a local refugee resettlement agency, or you can volunteer your skills to rebuild a community after a disaster occurs.
  • Raise awareness of the work of humanitarians. Talk to your friends, family and colleagues about the work of humanitarians. Share stories about humanitarians on social media. Use your voice to raise awareness of the challenges faced by humanitarians and the need for greater support for humanitarian action.

While grounded in tragedy, World Humanitarian Day is a day to honor humanitarians; join me in celebrating them.