UN salutes real-life heroes doing ‘extraordinary things, in extraordinary times’

On World Humanitarian Day UN Secretary-General urged everyone to applaud and support the humanitarians, health workers and first responders working selflessly.

Marking World Humanitarian Day, top UN officials are honouring the workers overcoming “huge challenges” to save and improve the lives of millions of women, men and children, hit hard by crises and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged everyone to applaud and support the humanitarians, health workers and first responders working selflessly amid unprecedented need, in a message on World Humanitarian Day. 

“These real-life heroes are doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times to help women, men and children whose lives are upended by crises,” said the UN chief. 

‘Unsung heroes’ of the pandemic response 

“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”, Mr. Guterres continued, adding that the loss of jobs, education, food, water and safety is pushing millions more to the brink. 

Since the coranavirus 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,” highlighted the Secretary-General. 

“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,” he concluded. 


Sacrifice on the front line

Marked annually on 19 August, the day commemorates humanitarians killed and injured in the course of their work, and honours all aid and health workers who, despite the odds, continue to provide life-saving support and protection to people most in need. 


It was designated in memory of the 19 August 2003 bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, killing 22 people, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. In 2009, the UN General Assembly formalized the day as World Humanitarian Day. 

UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
United Nations