World Humanitarian Day (WHD) celebrates the work of humanitarian workers from all over the world. It commemorates a terrorist attack on the United Nations headquarters on 19 August 2003, which killed 22 people, among them the UN top representative in Iraq. Five years later, 19 August was designated as World Humanitarian Day. On this day every year, the humanitarian community advocates for the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers, and for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) World Service works in 24 countries, reaching 2.6 million people across the world. The majority of the 8,000 staff carry out their work in challenging conditions. Many have been recruited from refugee communities themselves. A large number work in conflict zones. What is common to them all is their dedication to improving the lives of people less fortunate.

Protection of Civilians

Conflicts have made it increasingly difficult in the past years for staff to carry out their work. The shrinking of humanitarian space, which describes the in which aid workers operate, and the targeting of civilians and aid workers by militia has become a grave concern.

World Humanitarian Day 2017 focuses on the protection of civilians: Non-combatants in conflict zones, especially women and children, but also volunteers, medical staff and aid workers. In LWF operations, staff have observed how refugees and internally displaced persons have become a target –as well as the LWF aid workers themselves, who often find themselves between the lines.

Read their experiences below, and share with the hashtag  #NotATarget

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Protecting civilians in conflict

The past years have witnessed a constant reduction of space for humanitarians to provide aid. Civilians and aid workers find themselves between the lines. The protection of the lives and the dignity of people in conflict zones is more necessary than ever.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) operates in some of the most insecure contexts worldwide, and in some of the largest refugee crises. In the following photo essays, refugees and LWF field workers from Northern Iraq, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Colombia share some of their experiences of civilians being targeted in conflict.

See the photo essay



Interview with Maria Immonen

LWF World Service Director Maria Immonen speaks on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day about protecting civilians and working in conflict areas.

Watch the interview