Caritas Internationalis warns humanitarian situation worsening globally
By Lisa Zengarini
August 19 marks World Humanitarian Day (WHD) which is observed globally every year to pay tribute to all those volunteers risking their lives to provide humanitarian aid throughout the world, and to commemorate those who have died, or have been injured while working for humanitarian causes and needs.
It was adopted by the United Nations on 2008, five year after the bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, which in 2003 killed 22 humanitarian aid workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Caritas “local heroes”
Caritas Internationalis has taken the opportunity of this special observance to thank its Confederation’s humanitarian workers, who, in 200 countries and territories, protect and promote human dignity and serve, accompany and defend the poor and most vulnerable.
On the occasion, the international network of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations, has launched a special campaign entitled “Our Local Heroes” on its www.caritas.org website and on Caritas’s social media channels.
“Caritas staff are always there, everywhere in the world, at every moment: before, during, and after the crises,” says Aloysius John, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis. “They are both alongside and part of the communities, providing not only humanitarian relief, but also working for sustainable development, peacebuilding, and social cohesion. They offer their services, and even their lives, for the cause of the human person.”
274 million people in need of humanitarian assistance
On WHD, Caritas Internationalis also denounces the tragic worsening of the humanitarian situation globally.
In 2022, 274 million people will require humanitarian assistance and protection, according to estimates anticipated by the United Nations. Notably, the number has significantly increased since 2021, when it was 235 million, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences of climate change, and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Many countries are on the brink of a major food crisis aggravated by poor economic conditions, making the poorest and the most vulnerable dependent on humanitarian aid.
Caritas Internationalis too is witnessing a global and unprecedented food crisis, which is particularly severe in the Horn of Africa and Sahel regions, where millions of people are affected by acute food insecurity and malnutrition.
Food has become a political weapon
“The Ukrainian crisis has brought to evidence that food has become a political weapon, as access to adequate nutrition is at stake for millions of people. The worst affected are the poorest who are deprived of access to the most basic needs, which leads to further serious health risks,” said John.
At the same time, extreme climate-related events, violence and conflict have created new forms of vulnerability, and millions are leaving their homes in order to save their own lives. The most recent crises, add to others which have been ongoing for years, or even decades, such as those in Syria, Venezuela, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Urgent measures needed
The Catholic network alerts to the fact that if necessary measures are not taken immediately, the global humanitarian situation is likely to continue to worsen.
Addressing climate change a priority
Therefore, on World Humanitarian Day 2022, Caritas Internationalis urges decision makers to listen to the voices of the poorest and put their aspirations for a dignified life at the centreof all political decisions.
In particular, according to the Catholic organization, sustainable actions to mitigate the negative impact of climate change, one of the primary root causes of humanitarian crises, must be considered a priority to be urgently implemented. In addition, work to promote peace and reconciliation at the community level must be supported.
“We hope that this World Humanitarian Day will present all people with an opportunity to address the issue of fundamental human rights through appropriate actions. Universal solidarity and commitment to the human cause with supportive political will is the only way to reduce the incalculable human suffering of the most vulnerable,” concluded John.
The WHD 2022 theme
The theme for WHD 2022 is ‘It takes a village’, based on a famous saying, "It takes a village to raise a child, to underscore the effectiveness, and positive impacts of humanitarian work. According to the UN, "It takes a village to support a person in a humanitarian crisis."
With record-high humanitarian needs around the world, this year’s WHD builds on this metaphor of collective endeavour to grow global appreciation of humanitarian work.
The campaign headed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and its affiliates, this year, aims to help 183 million people in 63 nations who are most in need.