Why We Do What We Do: A U.N. Security Officer Reflects on World Humanitarian Day

Published on 20 August 2013

I signed my first contract with UNICEF on 17 August 2003 with Chris Klein Beekman, or "CKB," a committed, caring and thoughtful man in his early 30s, married for two years and with a new-born daughter at home. He died in my arms two days later, following the bombing of Baghdad's Canal Hotel. (..) Fast-forward to 9 June 2009, and the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan. I had just joined the UN's World Food Programme, and the Taliban came calling with a truck bomb underneath my room. (..) I am frequently asked why I keep doing this job, and I have to say that sometimes I wonder myself. It's a question equally valid if asked of all humanitarian workers: Why do we keep doing this? Why do we respond to natural disasters, emergencies and similar events that invariably lead to UN humanitarian intervention? (..) The number 95? That's the number of names engraved on the memorial wall in the foyer at WFP headquarters in Rome.

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