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World Humanitarian Day

Statement by WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan
18 August 2009

World Humanitarian Day is an occasion for paying tribute to the men and women who work to save the lives and protect the health of people affected by emergencies, whether caused by conflict or natural disasters. These are often life-threatening situations, and those who offer help put their own lives at risk.

This day is also an occasion for remembering humanitarian staff who lost their lives serving others. There are many, and they come from partner UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and numerous intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations. WHO remembers its own staff who have lost their lives with great sadness, but also great respect.

As the number of emergencies continues to increase, we must remain steadfast in our determination to help – to be quickly on the scene in the growing number of “hot spots” around the world. We have a humanitarian imperative, supported by clear codes of conduct, to extend help to those who have been displaced, or injured, or need food, water, shelter, comfort and essential medical care.

On this World Humanitarian Day, WHO reaffirms its commitment to lead international and national responses to the health component of emergencies through the "health cluster" approach, uniting a diversity of skills and capacities from many partners. In doing so, we will continue to look for ways to streamline and better coordinate activities under demanding conditions.

During an emergency, every minute counts, and every resource, above all staff, must be used as wisely, rationally, and safely as possible. This, too, is part of the humanitarian imperative shared by all, and remembered on this day.

Media contact

Paul Garwood, Communications Officer
Health Action in Crisis
World Health Organization
Tel: +41 22 791 3462
Mobile: +41 79 475 5546
Email: garwoodp@who.int

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