UN hails 'real-life heroes doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times'

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (IANS File Photo)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (IANS File Photo)

UNITED NATIONS, AUGUST 20 (IANS): Top UN officials honoured humanitarian workers overcoming "huge challenges" to save and improve the lives of millions of women, men and children hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and other crises.

Marking World Humanitarian Day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday urged everyone to applaud and support the health workers and first responders working selflessly amid unprecedented need, reports Xinhua news agency "These real-life heroes are doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times to help women, men and children whose lives are upended by crises.

"They are responding to the global crisis of Covid-19, and with it the massive increase in humanitarian needs from the fallout of the pandemic," Guterres said, adding that the loss of jobs, education, food, water and safety is pushing millions more to the brink.

Since the coronavirus emerged last December, communities, civil society and local organizations took on the role of first responders as movement restrictions and lockdowns were imposed to slow the spread.

People who are often in need themselves - like refugees helping host communities or local health workers caring for the sick - are supporting others.

"They are the unsung heroes of the pandemic response - and they all too often risk their own lives to save the lives of others.

"Today, join me in renewing our appreciation and support for the brave humanitarians, health workers and first responders who show solidarity and humanity in this time of unprecedented need," said the UN chief.

World Humanitarian Day was designated in memory of the August 19, 2003 bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, killing 22 people, including the special representative of the secretary-general for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

In his message, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, the President of the UN General Assembly, drew attention to the hurdles humanitarian workers face as they bring support to vulnerable populations.

"They are the first to respond and the last to leave accepting the risks of being threatened, injured, kidnapped and killed," he said, noting that limited resources are adding to the list of challenges.

"In 2020, despite the largest-ever funding shortfall, humanitarian workers have contended with Covid-19, as well as a massive spike in humanitarian needs in 63 countries," Muhammad-Bande added.

Thanking humanitarian workers everywhere for their important and courageous work, Mark Lowcock, the UN emergency relief coordinator, affirmed that the best way to pay tribute to them is by funding their work and ensuring their safety.