World Humanitarian Day 2015

August 19, 2015

Honoring all those who risk their lives to make a better world for children

Above: A vaccination team in Somalia goes house-to-house during a 2013 UNICEF-supported emergency polio immunization campaign. © UNICEF/NYHQ2013-1320/Ohanesian  Below: Girls at a religious school in Kano, Nigeria hold up their marked pinkies to show they have been immunized against polio during a June 2015 vaccination round. © UNICEFUSA/2015/Sandler

On World Humanitarian Day, UNICEF honors the dedication of humanitarian workers around the world who devote their lives to relieving the suffering of those in need. It is also a day when UNICEF calls upon all parties engaged in conflicts to allow safe passage to those working to feed the hungry, prevent disease and provide relief to mothers and children.

Tragically, the essential good works of two members of UNICEF’s polio team in Somalia were no protection this past April when the vehicle they were taking to work was bombed. Payenda Gul Abed, polio immunization coordinator in Garowe, and Brenda Kyeyune, social mobilization–communications manager, were killed along with two UNICEF colleagues, becoming four more victims in the devastating list of attacks on aid workers.

Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF communications specialist in Nigeria, who was injured in the 2011 attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja that killed 23, believes those who brave danger to do good know what’s at stake. “Living with the staccato of gunfire some nights is a constant reminder that all is not well here,” he says. That is, of course, why aid workers, like those who were killed in Somalia and Nigeria, face peril: to protect the most vulnerable when things are not as they should be.

Change for the better is the legacy of Payenda Gul Abed, Brenda Kyeyune and all the UN staff who died in Abuja. Their work amidst brutal conflict helped make Somalia and Nigeria, which both recently marked one full year with no new polio cases, safer places for children — and Africa that much closer to a polio-free future.

Please join us in honoring these heroes and all those who risk their lives to make a better world for children.