On World Humanitarian Day, we honor the memory of humanitarian workers who made the ultimate sacrifice answering the call to protect the lives and alleviate the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people. We recognize the tireless commitment of these individuals who put the lives of others before their own and who persist in their life-saving work despite the growing risks to their own health and safety. They must be able to pursue their noble work in safety and security. It is imperative that all parties to armed conflict comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and work to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel. Attacks directed against health and other humanitarian workers put millions of people at risk by denying them care and life-saving assistance, and this trend is worsening, even amidst a global pandemic.
The United States has a longstanding tradition of leadership in international humanitarian crisis response. In Fiscal Year 2019, the United States provided $9.25 billion in funding for food, shelter, healthcare, education, safe drinking water, and sanitation benefiting tens of millions of crisis-affected people worldwide, including many who have been displaced by conflict. Over the past decade, the United States has committed more than $70 billion in humanitarian assistance globally. Perennially, we are the largest single donor to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, World Food Program, UNICEF, and International Committee of the Red Cross as well as many international and local non-governmental organizations – among the world’s foremost humanitarian organizations. This assistance includes support to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers as they courageously care for the most vulnerable people in dangerous situations from Syria to Venezuela and from Northeast Nigeria to Burma, including armed conflict. The deep-seated commitment of the American people to help those in need goes beyond official assistance provided by the U.S. government. It is also seen in the assistance provided by private citizens, America’s civil society and non-governmental organizations, including faith-based organizations, the private sector, and the numerous Americans who have dedicated their lives to humanitarian work.
As global humanitarian needs continue to increase with historic numbers of people forced to flee their homes and now amid the global health and economic crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States will continue to serve as a catalyst for coordinated international crisis response and to encourage other governments to contribute more to share the global burden of meeting humanitarian needs. U.S. leadership in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has provided unparalleled support for the most vulnerable people in existing and evolving crisis situations. Delivery of that assistance is made possible by the dedicated humanitarian workers in the field whom we honor today and those who have gone before.