Celebrating the Humanitarian Heroes Who Build Our Future

August 19 is World Humanitarian Day—a time to remember those who lost their lives in the course of serving others and a time to celebrate those who are in the field, every day, building a better world for everyone. A statement from the Executive Director of WFP, Ertharin Cousin.

World Humanitarian Day is a day of sorrow, but it’s also a day of joy. 

First and foremost, today is an opportunity for us to remember our fellow humanitarians who lost their lives while serving others. It marks the 2003 tragedy when 22 people were killed in an explosion at the United Nations office in Baghdad. And it provides us a moment every year to mourn our colleagues and our partners who have died on the job since then.

This World Humanitarian Day, the World Food Programme (WFP) specifically remembers and honours five courageous individuals working with WFP. Most recently Ayman Omar, WFP’s head of security for Syria and the region, was killed in a road accident on July 28. And in the past year, four truck drivers lost their lives while delivering WFP food: Abdull Ahad in Afghanistan; Willy Wenagbili in Democratic Republic of Congo; Kakooza Abdalla Yusuf in Rwanda and Housien Hammoud in Syria. They truly embodied the humanitarian spirit that this day celebrates.

While we mourn for our colleagues and their families and take great pride in their selfless dedication, we remember that World Humanitarian Day is also a day for optimism. Optimism because—in the midst of multiple emergencies, displacements and hunger-related challenges around the world—we are making progress and a significant difference in the lives of others. 

That difference is visible in the refugee camps sheltering and feeding vulnerable people who have fled violence back home. It’s visible in the classrooms of 18 million children in 60 countries that have a better chance at a brighter future because of our School Meals Programme. And it’s visible in the countless communities around the world that have made long-term investments that are paying off for generations because they had a secure foundation of zero hunger on which to build.

All of us who work for and with WFP are part of that difference. We are humanitarian heroes because we are helping people around the world create the future we all want and deserve. A Future of zero hunger in which every child, woman and man can thrive.

-Ertharin Cousin

Below is a brief glimpse into what it means to be a humanitarian hero.