The United Nations General Assembly in 2008, set aside 19th August every year to mark the World Humanitarian Day to celebrate the gallantry of humanitarian services providers.
Some of these people have lost their lives or narrowly survived different threats to life while providing humanitarian services to persons during human and natural disaster situations.
According to the deputy head of office United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNOCHA, Mr. Peter Okia, by celebrating the World Humanitarian Day with women humanitarians in focus, the United Nations seeks to acknowledge the significant role that women play in humanitarian action.
Significance and Role of Women in Humanitarian Services
Women in humanitarian services bring a unique perspective in terms of their contribution that brings a more humane approach which ensures that the different needs of especially the women and girls are put into consideration.
In terms of the crises in the North Eastern part of Nigeria – Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states – where most of the UN humanitarian workers centered, 80 percent of the more affected population are the women and children.
Access to some specific services such as sexual reproductive health right can be constrained because of cultural issues and religious barriers. The presence of women in the humanitarian service help promote access to such humanitarian assistance.
Secondly the UN celebrates the unique role that women bring in terms of the various capacities in terms of management, leadership and resilience. It takes much more sacrifice for a woman to take part in humanitarian services than a man, in terms of security, their role as a mother, things they have to forego and the balance they have to make.
Safety of Humanitarian Workers
One crucial element about the world humanitarian day is creating awareness about the safety of humanitarian workers. Since the start of the crises in the North Eastern part of Nigeria, the UN have lost over 37 humanitarian workers while some humanitarian workers are in detention.
Celebrating the humanitarian day is an effort to try to bring to the fore the plight of the workers who are still being held in captivity and to always make sure that those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice are not forgotten.
Challenges in Humanitarian Services
Humanitarian work is not a piece of cake, it is quit challenging especially given the security constraints and the risks involved.
- Security posses the most challenge because they usually work in a militarized environment.
- Lack of understanding and support from the affected communities in terms of cultural and religious barriers.
Solutions to the Challenges in Humanitarian Services
Humanitarian services are needed at places with active conflict; the main solution to these challenges is to address the root causes of the conflicts.
The Government should be able to provide an enabling environment for humanitarian workers to function.
There should be a synergy between all the stakeholders in crises management so as to reduce the obstacles humanitarian workers face.
Experts call for synergy among stakeholders in disaster management to protect humanitarian workers in the country. They urged Nigerians to be friendly with humanitarian workers to give them a sense of belonging.
Nigeria is lagging behind with the way we display negative attitude to people who are actually humanitarian workers that are based on the principle of selflessness to come out to say they want to help. They could be medical doctors, aid workers or immunization workers … Andrew Ajaye.
Mr. Ibrahim on his part appeal for more awareness on the role of humanitarians in nation building
The need for increased awareness on the populace about the role of humanitarian workers. Some have even been killed. So if there is increased awareness people will get to know more about the role of the humanitarian workers.
The UNICEF representative in Nigeria Mrs. Daniel Ironsert, explained that humanitarians are operating to improve human dignity in welfare and appealed for their protection while providing such services
By definition of what they are doing they want to improve human welfare and dignity, they care, they are not motivated by a large financing. There is a tremendous commitment to these values, sacrificing their time away from the family, and in some cases sacrificing their lives.
The Director of planning Research and Forecasting, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Dr. Kayode Fagbemi and the Country Director Action Aid Nigeria, an NGO, Mrs. Eneh Obi advocates for more collaboration among stake holders to protect humanitarian workers in the country.