What are you going to do for others in your community today? With this question the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is encouraging people to get involved in World Humanitarian Day on Sunday 19 August. The I Was Here campaign aims at sending the biggest social media message in history while encouraging people to think about humanitarian work through small everyday actions.
”I'm going to make a phone call to my elderly relatives with whom I've not been in touch on the excuse that I haven't had time,” says the Finnish Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala.
”The World Humanitarian Day also makes me think of refugee camps where people have to live for up to decades. I personally saw in Kakuma, Kenya, how important it is to support the opportunities for people to return to normal life. Returning back to normal is the dream for everyone who has had to flee because of a natural disaster or a conflict – and the aim of Finnish humanitarian work.”
Finland has granted EUR 73.5 million in humanitarian aid in 2012 up to date. The major receivers are the Horn of Africa, the Sahel region, South Sudan and Yemen.
Currently, the major humanitarian crisis takes place in the Sahel region, where the record drought in decades and the resulting lack of food and water is affecting the lives of over 18 million people in Chad, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Senegal. Malnourishment is a serious threat to the more than four million under five-year-olds, one million of whom are facing the risk of death.
The conflict in Syria over the last seventeen months has taken more than 20,000 lives so far. Within the borders of Syria, providing aid to those in need is difficult given the dangerous operating environment. According to estimations, Syria now has over a million of internally displaced people and over 155,000 people have fled to the neighbouring countries. The actual figures may, however, outnumber the official estimations and the number of refugees to the neighbouring countries of Syria is suspected to increase rapidly.
Finland has previously allocated EUR 1.3 million in assistance for the Syrian crisis. Under a decision issued by Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala Finland will allocate an extra EUR 1.5 million in humanitarian aid for the victims in Syria. The total sum granted in assistance will therefore be EUR 2.8 million.
Instead of political, military or financial bases, Finland applies the needs-based approach to allocation of humanitarian aid. Impartiality and neutrality are basic premises of delivering the aid and ensuring the safety of the aid workers.
Finland's humanitarian aid focuses on saving lives, alleviating people's distress and human suffering and maintaining human dignity in conflicts and natural disasters and their aftermath. The focus is on the poorest countries, and the aid is targeted to the vulnerable.
Finland channels the funding through the UN agencies, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent and capable Finnish NGOs such as the Finnish Red Cross, Finnish Church Aid and FIDA. The decisions for assistance are made in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
World Humanitarian Day marks the day in 2003 when UN workers lost their lives in a bomb attack on the UN offices in Baghdad. World Humanitarian Day also recognizes all the aid workers and other people who help people in need.