Since 2008, the United Nations General Assembly has set aside 19th August every year to celebrate the gallantry of humanitarian service providers. These are people who have lost their lives or survived different threats while providing humanitarian services to persons cut on the wrought of Natural and human induced disasters especially in violent conflict situations.
The day is a commemoration of the anniversary of the terror attack in Bagdad, Iraq in 2003 where 22 people lost their lives including the UN high commissioner for human rights and special representative of the secretary general to Iran Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello.
The incident mark the epoch of act of terrorist and brought to acknowledgement the vulnerability of humanitarian workers in different parts of the world. There is significant reason therefore to celebrate these heroes.
The day involves activities aimed at calling for increased public awareness, involvement in the provision of humanitarian services with particular emphasis on the challenges they face in crises flash points across the world.
This has also brought to the fore the compelling need for concerted effort towards mobilization of resources, exhibition of humanitarian care and demonstration of sympathy with the view to relieving victims of crises of the psycho-social trauma and increasing their resilience to post conflict live situations.
The theme of this year’s event “Celebrating Women Humanitarians” is intending to highlight the safety of women humanitarian workers who have contributed immensely to the welfare of the needy. The theme is believed appropriate and relevant considering the risk, challenges and alarming number of female humanitarian workers.
For instance, in 2014, Dr. Stella Adedebo paid the supreme price to contain Ebola outbreak in the country. This indeed saved the Nation a major disaster. The painful death of the female immunization workers in Kano some years ago is still fresh in the minds of many.
The Nurses that were abducted and killed in River state is also mind burgling. And Just recently the abduction and subsequent murder of a female Britain in Kaduna state shows the vulnerability of women to the dangers of associated with service to humanity.
It is heartwarming that this year’s World Humanitarian Day is set to celebrate women humanitarian and their undying contribution in making the world a better place. Female humanitarians hold an unparalleled sense of uniqueness, one that adds to the global momentum of female strength, power and perseverance.
It is time to honour the women who has acted as first responders to the darkest hours of crises. Conflict affects women, girls, boys and men differently. Women and girls face heightened risks due to displacement and break down of normal production structures.
They also face increased care related risk such as providing food and water and caring for the sick. In conflict situations there is a significant increase in female headed households during and after conflicts due to lost of men.
Women tend to be the most impoverished. According to a UN report, 60 percent of preventable maternal mortality deaths take place in settings of conflicts, displacement and natural disasters.
In view of the vulnerability and resilience of women in humanitarian work, it has become imperative to put them in the front burner of this year’s World Humanitarian Day.
Today rituals of everyday life are expected to showcase the contrast of what women humanitarians encounter on daily basis.
This calls for collaboration, cooperation and coordination in providing safety to humanitarian workers and protection to teaming Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in crisis areas of the country.
More importantly, the government must discharge its responsibility of ensuring security of citizens and their property. The citizens on the other hand must embrace the need for peaceful coexistence to avoid crisis that displaces fellow humans.
They should understand that natural disasters alone are overwhelming. This way the challenges of humanitarian workers especially the women will be reduced.
Therefore everyone should be involved in ensuring the safety of humanitarian actors to encourage them in their commitment to the speedy restoration of normalcy in devastated communities and vulnerable zones.
Written by Tese Zambey of Radio Nigeria.