Why celebrate World Humanitarian Day?

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

August 19, 2020- If you watch or read world news, you undoubtedly know there are millions of people who live in conditions that we would consider “intolerable.” Those who strive every day to prevent and alleviate this human suffering, without regard to race, creed, sex, color or nationality, are humanitarians, and those are the ones honored each August 19th.

Every volunteer with the American Red Cross is a humanitarian. Here in Northern Ohio, our volunteers respond every day to local disasters, such as home fires, to help residents in need and provide comfort and support.

Our volunteers even deploy across the country to help provide humanitarian assistance. During the early hurricane and wildfire season in 2020, Northern Ohio has deployed more than 10 disaster volunteers to assist affected communities.

The Problem

You don’t have to listen to the news very long to comprehend all the challenges in the world today:

  • Armed conflicts are killing innocent civilians without regard to international conventions
  • Infectious diseases are becoming more prevalent and harder to contain
  • Lack of employment, housing, nutrition and medical supplies are all worldwide concerns
  • Climate change has decimated crop growing regions and endangered coastal areas with flooding
  • Authoritarian leaders have pillaged country’s coffers and jailed those who dare to protest

The Need

According to the 2020 United Nations (UN) Global Humanitarian Overview, responding to these needs is going to require an unprecedented effort.

  • 166,500,000 People are in need worldwide
  • 108,800,000 People have been targeted for aid by the UN. (Some countries will not allow UN aid)
  • $29,700,000,000 Required to meet their needs
  • $15,960,000,000 Funding received from UN members
  • $13,740,000,000 Yes, that’s a $13-billion shortfall for meeting the anticipated needs this year.

That’s a crisis in itself…

But, that’s not all

The above numbers represent day-to-day requirements for those in need worldwide. What they don’t include are disasters, which the Red Cross forecasts will be increasing each year due to climate change.

That is where the Red Cross comes in. Helping people prepare for disasters, responding immediately after disasters, and helping people reconnect and rebuild lives in the aftermath are all specialties of the Red Cross.

August 17, 2020. Veterans Memorial Colosseum Red Cross operated shelter. Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Fried chicken and vegetables is the ultimate comfort meal, served to shelter client Brian by volunteer Robert. Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

Moreover, the Red Cross supplies humanitarians, more than 90% of whom are volunteers, who give of their time and talents to provide hope and comfort to others in their time of need.

Across the United States, nearly 372,000 volunteers give a little or give a lot of their time to be on-call for the next home fire, flooding event or other emergency. Won’t you consider becoming part of this country’s largest humanitarian organization? Explore the opportunities you might be qualified for by clicking here.  And remember to celebrate all the humanitarians actively working around the world each August 19.

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