By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
World Humanitarian Day is celebrated every year on 19 August. It is a day set aside to honour all humanitarians, as well as those who lost their lives working for humanitarian causes.
This year, the annual observance is focused around the theme of climate crisis, inviting partners across the world to highlight the immediate cost of this crisis by pressuring political leaders to take meaningful action against climate change and to protect the world’s most vulnerable people.
With the climate emergency wreaking havoc across the world at a scale that the humanitarian community and people at the front lines can hardly manage, World Humanitarian Day 2021 highlights the importance of joint, concerted action to combat this single biggest threat facing humanity.
A world facing challenges
In the spirit of this year’s theme, Caritas Internationalis is urging decision-makers to take courageous steps to address issues related to climate change, the pandemic and its consequences, and the political turmoil in Afghanistan and Lebanon. The Church's aid organization also points at the humanitarian challenge in Haiti caused by the recent 7.2-magnitude earthquake, amid the country’s political and economic chaos.
Furthermore, as the world witnesses record-breaking heatwaves, devastating storms, floods, changing weather patterns and ravaging forest fires in 2021, Caritas says these “are all created by lack of care for the environment, leading to climate change and ecological crisis.”
In a statement on the organization’s website, the charity agency stresses that “the natural disasters that adversely affect the most impoverished nations are also a call for determined and concerted political action to protect, defend and save lives,” and points out that “where one part of humanity suffers, the whole human family suffers as well”.
Proposing practical steps, Caritas calls on political leaders to ensure the safety of the Afghan population and the provision of basic needs for the Lebanese people. In this regard, governments are urged to allocate sufficient funds for local communities to engage in both agricultural and non-agricultural community-based development activities to ensure their means of livelihood and food security.
In addition, the charity agency encourages the involvement of local communities in humanitarian action and insists that priority be given to disaster management in local communities through risk reduction formation and activities to ensure safety through early warning systems. To ensure this, Local governments are invited to cooperate with local civil society organizations and faith-based groups to strengthen their response mechanisms.
Caritas also stresses the importance of ensuring access to basic integral health care for the most vulnerable, including vaccines against diseases; and a commitment to economic and industrial global policies in order to minimize the impact of global warming and the degradation of ecosystems.
Integral ecology is the solution
In line with Pope Francis’ teaching, Caritas notes that the only appropriate response to the climate crisis is integral ecology, as well as putting “the interest and dignity of the human person at the center of all activities and decisions” in the face of the “untold sufferings caused by these man-made and natural crises” witnessed by the charity agency’s network of members working with grassroot communities in 200 countries and territories.
And with preparations underway for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November, Caritas urges COP26 to address this as an “urgent priority” and to “put forward tangible and adequate solutions and allocate sufficient resources or means to realize them."
The statement concludes with the reminder that “without determined political will on the part of the decision-makers and political leaders, there will be no change, and the wellbeing of the poorest cannot be ensured.”