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OPSEU acknowledges and celebrates aid workers on World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day: vector design with image of Globe

Wednesday, August 19, is World Humanitarian Day, a time to recognize and remember workers who have dedicated their lives to support and protect those most in need, whether in Canada or abroad.

On August 19, 2003, a suicide truck bomber attacked the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq.  A total of 21 people died, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. More than 100 people were wounded, including human rights lawyer and political activist Dr. Amin Mekki Medani of Sudan. In remembrance of the victims, The United Nations General Assembly formalized this day as World Humanitarian Day.

COVID-19 has brought additional stress to the world’s aid workers, health care workers, and frontline workers. The pandemic’s challenges have shown us what happens when ordinary citizens are called upon to be more and to do more. Our humanitarians and everyday heroes have risen to the challenge, standing strong on the front lines of this crisis. These workers in Canada and across the globe have worked tirelessly to keep services running in the face of this deadly pandemic, which has claimed more than 700-thousand lives according to the World Health Organization.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says it’s important that we acknowledge and celebrate the work that’s being done by our humanitarians and essential workers to keep our communities safe.

“We are still in this pandemic and they continue to risk their lives on a daily basis,” said Thomas.  “I am so proud and so grateful to these heroes.” 

The purpose of World Humanitarian Day is to raise awareness on the plight of people around the world who are victims of disease and violence. This is a time to honor and support the thousands of humanitarian workers who risk and sometimes give their lives in an effort to help people.

OPSEU First Vice President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida notes that Canada’s aid workers rise to the occasion every day in countless ways.

“Some have paid the ultimate price, and we will shall never forget that,” said Almeida. “We have some honorable people who won’t shy away from doing the work and we thank them for it, each and every day.”    

Roughly 130 million people throughout the world are currently living in crisis, either through war or natural disasters. Many need immediate humanitarian aid for survival and there are many more here at home who are facing other challenges. Many institutions such as homeless shelters, nursing homes, hospitals or organizations that serve underprivileged people rely heavily on the generosity of volunteers. Humanitarian aid comes in many different forms and it always provides the necessary assistance to people in need.