In 2021, a record 235 million people in 36 countries require humanitarian assistance. For many communities across the globe, life-threatening crises are becoming increasingly complex as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies hunger, deepens poverty, and fan the flames of conflicts over scarce resources.

The same factors driving unprecedented levels of need are also contributing to an increasingly dangerous operating environment for relief workers. Over the last year alone, at least 475 aid workers were killed, injured, or kidnapped. Despite these risks, aid workers continue to put their lives on the line to respond to worldwide crises, including climate-related disasters—such as cyclones and flash flooding—occurring with greater frequency and intensity.

This day is celebrated to honor those injured and killed while providing life-saving support to people in need. The day was specifically chosen to mark the sacrifice of 22 humanitarian aid workers in Canal Hotel in Baghdad in 2003, who were killed while providing their service. The day is specifically important during the current pandemic as it pays tribute to the health workers and other essential workers who are continuing to provide their services to the world. In contrast, the threat to their life and safety continues.

A global challenge for climate action in solidarity with people who need it the most

This year, the celebration centers on the theme of discussing the human cost of the immediate climate crises. 

The theme discusses the rights of those who have contributed the least to this crisis but are still the largest sufferers of the calamity. With the devastating floods in various parts of the world, coupled with the double whammy of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to understand the interconnectedness of natural events.

Using the metaphor of “global race against climate change,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will organize a race in Strava, where people will participate in any activity related to the movement that carries the message of climate change. This is also crucial in setting the public mood before the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November (hosted by the UK, in partnership with Italy). 

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Shristi Banerjee

Lawyer, Jharkhand High Court (India)

Global Representative (India), Roya Institute of Global Justice