Tribute to Staff on World Humanitarian Day 2014

LWF emergency response staff meets with IDPs in Bouar in Central African Republic’s Nana Mambéré prefecture. Photo: LWF/DWS CAR
LWF emergency response staff meets with IDPs in Bouar in Central African Republic’s Nana Mambéré prefecture. Photo: LWF/DWS CAR

LWF Calls for Aid Workers Safety and Protection

(LWI) – On World Humanitarian Day (WHD) in 2014, The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has paid special tribute to the commitment of its country program staff across world, and reiterated earlier calls for the safety and protection of all humanitarian workers and civilians in increasingly insecure contexts.

“We have to speak out more clearly and loudly that it is simply unacceptable that any fighting force and least of all official state military, targets civilians and aid workers,” said LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, in a letter to staff of all Department for World Service (DWS) country programs.

This year’s WHD theme celebrates and honors “Humanitarian Heroes.” The day commemorates the killing of 22 aid workers on 19 August 2003 in a bomb attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

According to the United Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 155 humanitarian workers were killed on duty in 2013, representing a significant increase from the previous year. Preliminary figures indicate that this year alone, 79 aid workers had been killed by 13 August.

Referring to the recent targeted killings of aid workers and attacks on hospitals and health facilities in the conflicts in Gaza and South Sudan, Junge said he was increasingly worried about staff wellbeing and safety in several working environments with “a total absence of respect for international humanitarian law.”

Still, the new challenges anticipated, such as the plight of civilians caught in the conflict in Northern Iraq and the looming hunger crisis in South Sudan, require the LWF to “prepare for the worst as we hope and pray for the best,” the General Secretary said.

Junge underlined LWF’s gratitude and appreciation, and offered prayerful encouragement as the organization’s humanitarian workers “uphold their vocation to serve the neighbor.”

In a video message, DWS director Rev. Eberhard Hitzler reiterated the General Secretary’s message and paid tribute to the daily heroic work of over 4,000 LWF employees around the world, who “put the needs of the most needy over and above their own comfort.”

But, Hitzler added, “We need to celebrate their tremendous bravery while they are alive.”

In select interviews, some of LWF’s aid workers have shared their stories about compassion and saving lives in some of the world’s most precarious conflict situations. Read more about LWF’s “Humanitarian Heroes” in peace building initiatives among young Syrian refugees and in conflict-wounded families in Colombia; reaching out to school-age girls in remote areas in Central African Republic; and providing water in refugee camps in Ethiopia against all odds including limited financial resources.

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