World Humanitarian Day (19 August)

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  • Posted on August 18, 2017

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… They are #NotATarget

by Isatou Sumbunu

On 19th August, the world is commemorating World Humanitarian Day to recognise and pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian crisis. This is a day to honour both those who have lost their lives or have been injured during their work whiles celebrating their contribution to humanity.

World Humanitarian Day takes place on 19th August every year, which marks the date the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq was attacked.  The bomb attack at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad killed 22 humanitarian aid workers including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Not only was this a massive loss for the UN, but it was also an attack on the humanitarian community.

The 2017 World Humanitarian Day campaign is focused on the message that civilians caught in conflict are #NotATarget. Recent conflict has caused some of the greatest devastation in recent history; taking a huge toll on the lives of people around the world. Millions of civilians are trapped in wars that are not of their making. As a result families have been forced to run away from their homes and communities, hide away in bushes or have become refugees to save their lives. The consequence is that children are forced out of school, families separated and displaced and communities torn apart. With the world not doing enough to halt the suffering of these people, humanitarian workers are risking their lives to assist them. In response to this, they are now increasingly targeted and their lives are in even greater danger.

On the African continent the danger to the lives of humanitarian workers is growing.  In March 2017, two UN investigators were brutally murdered in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rein Paulsen, head of the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs office in Congo, stated that government and aid workers are increasingly becoming targets of the violence with some being “killed and beheaded” despite tighter security being put in place. The DRC has suffered a string of conflicts since the 1990s with its civil war being the deadliest conflict in modern African history following the deaths of more than 5 million people. In the most recent conflict, the total number of displaced people within the country has more than doubled to 3.7 million since August of 2016 with the figure expected to rise drastically.

The UN reported that the humanitarian situation in DR Congo is “dramatically deteriorating” with an estimate of 1.9 million children under five severely acutely malnourished. It is estimated that over 7 million children in the country are out of school due to the conflict and lack of access.

Children at the Lighthouse School, Lubumbashi DR Congo

Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR) argues conflict has had the most devastating effect on children. Those directly affected suffer displacement, physical injury, psychological trauma and stigmatisation, which are sources of profound and lasting disadvantage in education.

Across the vast central African nation which has been torn apart by over two decades of unrest, it is an understatement to say that the education in DR Congo has been intensely hit. With so many children displaced bearing the unfortunate consequence of the conflict, the ones left behind are forced to work to help provide for their families instead of attending school leading to them not only losing out their right to education, but their right to enjoy their childhood.

At ACT, our main aim is to relieve poverty and advance development in Africa with the primary tool in this fight being to provide education to disadvantaged children. ACT launched its operations in the DR Congo in January 2016 in partnership with the Congolese charity CEEJ and Central African Missions International UK (CAM) in Lubumbashi. We are supporting disadvantaged fatherless children and orphans by providing them with school uniforms, school meals, stationary and other essential school materials. The efforts of ACT and its partners have had an important impact on the community. However, many civilians living in the DRC still face unpredictable and dangerous challenges and are  therefore still needing your assistance.

To find out more about sponsoring an orphan or disadvantaged child in Africa, please click here.

Blog written by Isatou Sumbunu

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