Statement by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on World Humanitarian Day

United States Mission to the United Nations
Office of Press and Public Diplomacy
For Immediate Release
August 19, 2021

Statement by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on World Humanitarian Day

Today, we honor the world’s humanitarian aid workers who selflessly put themselves at risk to ensure vulnerable people have the food, medicine, and supplies they need to survive. Every day, humanitarian workers head directly into the most challenging and dangerous places on earth – sites of famine, pandemic, and war – to save lives and alleviate suffering. World Humanitarian Day is a day to recognize and pay tribute to these heroes.

In recent months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of these heroes. On my first day in New York, I met with humanitarian partners on the ground in Yemen, working to address one of the world’s most devastating crises. At the Turkey-Syria border, I met with fearless humanitarians from the White Helmets, World Food Program, and many other organizations who have worked to support Syrians in need throughout more than ten years of conflict. I’ve met with organizations working to alleviate suffering in Burma and Haiti, and with community organizations in the United States like CASA de Maryland and the Pacific Gateway Center in Hawaii, which are doing important work resettling refugees and asylum-seekers.

The United States has long taken a leadership role in providing humanitarian support, which has only become more important as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic continue to exacerbate, compound, and complicate the world’s humanitarian crises. Climate change is fueling unprecedented natural disasters that lead to droughts, famines, and other drivers of displacement and conflict. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the burden on humanitarian organizations to ensure access to healthcare, while simultaneously putting those same humanitarian workers at elevated risk.

As we mark this important day, we are also deeply concerned that humanitarian aid workers – the world’s superheroes – are under attack. In July, the Security Council discussed the state of humanitarian access and a new and alarming trend: deliberate acts of violence targeting humanitarian workers. I recalled recent and appalling attacks, such as those on the HALO Trust in Afghanistan and the killing of three Médecins Sans Frontières workers in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

Today, events across the globe, including in Afghanistan and Haiti, underscore the importance of humanitarian work as well as the need to respect and protect humanitarian aid workers. Their efforts reflect the best of humanity: wherever there are people in need of assistance, there are humanitarian workers putting themselves at risk to reach them. The United States remains committed to ensuring humanitarian workers, and their vital assistance, continues to reach those in need wherever it’s needed most.

Yesterday, I met with Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, to discuss humanitarian efforts across the globe. The United States will remain a strong and committed partner to OCHA and other UN offices as we work to alleviate suffering and address urgent global crises.

The United States will continue to help the most vulnerable in their time of need. Humanitarian aid workers are willing to put their own lives on the line to help others. It is the duty of all nations to help ensure these brave and compassionate humanitarians are empowered and supported in their life-saving work.