The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, yesterday, marked the World Humanitarian Day to honour aid workers globally and in Nigeria.
The Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Peter Ekayu, in a speech delivered during the event, paid special tribute to the women among the aid workers.
Of particular mention were Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa and Hauwa Mohammed Liman who were midwives with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and were executed after being held in captivity by Boko Haram for more than six months.
Both aid workers were abducted from Rann town, Borno State in March 2018, along with a nurse from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) who is still held in captivity.
The UN office also remembered Faye Mooney, a British communications and learning specialist with the non-governmental organization, Mercy Corps, who lost her life in an attack by gunmen in Kaduna State earlier this year.
The UN said in the past year, tragic events befell women humanitarians working in Nigeria.
“Women are active in every aspect of humanitarian action: from negotiating access to people in need, to addressing deadly diseases such as measles and cholera. From reuniting separated children to ensuring people uprooted by natural disasters and conflict have shelter, access to clean water, healthcare, food and education.
“Women humanitarians bring a unique perspective to this work through their understanding of the specific needs and priority of girls and women.
“And women humanitarians extend our global humanitarian access in parts of the world by their ability to reach women and girls who might otherwise be out-of-reach and bring them the information, support and services they need.
“In total, 37 aid workers have lost their lives in service of humanity since the beginning of the conflict. We are here together to honour them and their grieving families, relatives and children surviving them.
“As I stand before you today, my thoughts also go to the families of our colleagues who are still being held captive by armed groups.
“The UN and its humanitarian partners call for their immediate release and return to safety.
“My heart also goes out to the families of the thousands of civilians who have been similarly abducted and whose whereabouts are still unknown,” Ekayu said.
Ekayu added that over the years, too many innocent children, women and men have died in the violence.
He further said the latest data shows that about 35,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict since 2019, declaring that “These are 35,000 too many.”
“Today, we are here together to remind the world that the humanitarian crisis hitting Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states is far from over.
“The less attention we pay to the crisis in the north-east, the more risks face our colleagues who are working in extremely volatile areas struck by violence and devastation.
“As respect for the laws of war weakens, aid workers are increasingly vulnerable, though they are more needed than ever before.
“March 2018 has marked a turning point. Humanitarian workers are a target in Nigeria.
“Since the attack in Rann, when three humanitarians were killed and three women aid workers abducted, incidents involving or directly targeting aid workers have persisted unabated.
“And so today, I want to say “Enough!” Enough armed attacks against humanitarians. Enough attacks against aid convoys. Enough kidnappings. Enough lootings of vital assistance meant for the millions in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states who desperately need it. Enough burnt villages. Enough attacks against civilians, schools, and hospitals. Enough violence. Enough fear,” the UN also said.
Ekayu further said in honour of all of those who have lost their lives in the conflict, and in hope of a prompt return of abducted colleagues to the safety of their homes, he implored everyone to make a commitment to each other:
“That we will seize each and every opportunity possible to raise awareness and understanding
of the work humanitarian actors do, of the humanitarian principles and the humanity guiding us, and of international humanitarian laws and the importance of protecting civilians.
“So that together we can bring a change. So that enough, finally, is enough,” Ekayu added.
Earlier, Ekayu said the everyday heroes were working tirelessly to provide much-needed vital assistance to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis in the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
“We are here to salute their commitment and recognize the sacrifices they and their families are making every day.
“UN staff, INGO and local NGO personnel, state emergency professionals, doctors, nurses, host community members, or simply fathers, mothers, neighbours… thousands of people are guided by their dedication to humanity. They are driven by the most noble cause of helping others.
“I salute the courage and relentless commitment not only colleagues and partners, but also affected people and families have shown over the years. Our efforts are not vain. Together, we are making a difference in the life of millions.
“Today we are paying special tribute to the women among them,” Ekayu stated.