By Fred Nwaozor
On August 19 each year, the world over commemorates the World Humanitarian Day. The World Humanitarian Day is an annual and international day dedicated to recognize humanitarian personnel and those who have lost their lives while working for humanitarian causes. The event was designated by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly as part of a Swedish-sponsored General Assembly Resolution on the strengthening of the coordination of emergency assistance of the UN.
The World Humanitarian Day is a time to recognize those who face danger and adversity while helping others. The day was set aside to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, which claimed twenty-two (22) lives including the life of the then Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Iraq in the person of Sergio Vieira de Mello.
The declaration of August 19 as World Humanitarian Day was the outcome of the relentless efforts of Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation coupled with the partnership of the deceased’s family with the Ambassadors of France, Switzerland, Japan, as well as Brazil in both Geneva and New York, tabling and steering the draft resolution through the UN General Assembly. All the efforts of the Foundation was to ensure that the tragic loss of the said hero among his twenty-one (21) colleagues, and all the humanitarian personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifices in relieving the suffering of the victims of humanitarian crises were not in vain.
Sergio Vieira de Mello who was a citizen of Brazil, South America dedicated his lifetime spanning over thirty years in the UN, serving in some of the most challenging humanitarian situations in the world to reach the voiceless victims of armed conflict, alleviate their suffering and draw global attention to their plight. His death alongside twenty-one of his colleagues on August 19, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq deprived the victims of armed conflict worldwide of a unique humanitarian leader of unmatched courage, drive and empathy who championed their cause fearlessly and clearly engraved their plight on the world map.
The tragic event also robbed the humanitarian community of an outstanding leader and intellectual whose thought, philosophy, dynamism and courage inspired all, and remains a timeless legacy to emulate by generations yet unborn. Mindful of this legacy, in 2006 the family of the late humanitarian icon and a group of close friends founded the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation dedicated to continue his unfinished mission of encouraging dialogue between communities and relieving the predicament faced by the victims of humanitarian crises.
The World Humanitarian Day was commemorated for the first time on August 19, 2009. Suffice to say that, this year’s commemoration is the eighth of its kind in the history of the worthwhile event. As the international community marks the event on Friday, we are all urged to borrow a leaf from the indelible landmark achievements of the great warrior and legend – Sergio Vieira de Mello. To this end, we are all expected to strive towards promoting selfless service in our respective endeavours at all costs.
Surely, the most important thing to any man remains his/her welfare. Welfare could be referred to as one’s well-being, or organized efforts to ensure the basic well-being of people in need. Since the term ‘humanitarianism’ has to do with human welfare, it is of no need reiterating the fact that this remarkable event widely known and recognized as World Humanitarian Day was set aside to sensitize mankind to the cogent need for people to help one another, and for anyone to support any crusade that is targeted to promote lending a hand to persons that are in need or victimized.
We must be willing and ready to volunteer ourselves whenever our services are required in our various jurisdictions. It’s very disheartening to notice that whenever tragic incident occurred, some persons’ intent is usually how they would benefit from the crisis. Rather than preoccupy our minds with such devilish intention, we are bound to take into cognizance that no one who benefits from a crisis scene lives a happy life regardless of his/her status. To this end, it’s our duty to ensure that we bring succour to the needy, or those who are victims of crises such as war, terrorism, religious extremism, massacre, and genocide, just to mention a few.
Furthermore, since no one ever wishes to be in a community or society made up of only him or her, thus we ought to ensure that the sustenance of the well-being of our relatives, friends, neighbours, colleagues, associates, or what have you, as the case may be, is at all times our civic responsibility. By so doing, we can boast of a peaceful society filled with thoroughly united individuals.
So, as Nigeria joins the global community to commemorate the World Humanitarian Day next Friday, I enjoin every relevant body, religious institution, civil society, mass media, governments at all levels and well-meaning individuals, among others, to do everything humanly possible toward ensuring that selfless service to humanity is deeply promoted come rain come shine. In his words, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, ‘In a world that is ever more digitally connected, each of us has the power and responsibility to inspire our fellow human beings to act to help others and create a more humane world’.
The theme of this year’s commemoration is ‘One humanity’, which signifies that we were all created to be one indivisible body irrespective of our individual affiliations. Hence, we are meant to contribute our quota to ensure that we actualize such laudable motive no matter the challenges. Think about it!
Nwaozor writes from Owerri