UN honours thousands of aid workers killed

The United Nations says 2018 was the worst in five years in the number of aid workers killed.
The United Nations says 2018 was the worst in five years in the number of aid workers killed.

The UN has paid tribute to the thousands of aid workers who have been killed, injured, assaulted and kidnapped, saying the world has become a more dangerous place for those who risk their lives to help people in need.

UN deputy humanitarian chief Ursula Mueller told a news conference on Monday that last year was the worst in five years for violence against aid workers and the second worst on record.

In 2018, there were 131 aid workers killed, 144 wounded and 130 kidnapped "in 35 crisis-affected countries," she said. And so far in 2019, some 57 have been killed, 59 wounded and 40 kidnapped.

"Humanitarian work is getting more dangerous due to the erosion of respect for international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law," Mueller said. "As respect for the laws of war weakens around the world, aid workers are increasingly vulnerable when they are more needed than ever before."

World Humanitarian Day is held annually on August 19, and 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of its observance.

It is the day of the worst ever terrorist attack against the United Nations, when the Canal Hotel in Baghdad was bombed in 2003,.

The mission head, Sergio Viera de Mello, a former UN humanitarian chief, was among 22 UN workers killed.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed spoke at a ceremony flying the tattered UN flag salvaged from Baghdad s saying "across the years since, so many others have perished in the line of duty, on the front lines of crisis and in epicentres of dire need."

In their honour, over a hundred UN staff members and diplomats observed a minute of silence.

Mohammed said the UN is changing the way it operates around the world, strengthening safety and security measures, providing preparedness training, instituting rapid response measures and increasing counselling and mental health support.

"Those who attack the United Nations want to make us afraid, feel weak, and to retreat," she said. "Those we honour today inspire us to be bold and determined and to go forward."

Australian Associated Press