World Humanitarian Day 2023

In celebration of World Humanitarian Day 2023, we highlight humanitarian workers like Tetiana from Ukraine making a real difference to the lives of forcibly displaced people on the ground  


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© UK for UNHCR/Mark Macdonald

Every year on 19th August, the global community comes together to mark World Humanitarian Day and honour the dedication and unwavering commitment of humanitarian workers around the world. 

It is also a day on which we pause to remember humanitarian workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. 

In 2022, forced displacement hit new records as more people were forced to flee due to war and persecution than ever before, as detailed in Global Trends, UNHCR’s flagship annual report. With the number of forcibly displaced people surpassing 108 million, the biggest ever annual increase, the need for humanitarian assistance has never been greater. 

UNHCR colleagues and partners have been on the frontlines of some of the most catastrophic humanitarian crises. From Yemen to Türkiye and Syria, they have been instrumental in providing aid, support and comfort to those in dire need.  

When an emergency occurs, UNHCR is ready to respond within 72 hours. Behind every emergency response stands a team of dedicated humanitarian experts, consisting of UNHCR and local partners working together. This year, staff have deployed to emergencies such as the Türkiye-Syria earthquake where a series of earthquakes and aftershocks put millions of lives at risk, colleagues in South Sudan provided essential supplies and support to people forced to flee conflict and others are working amid the war in Ukraine. 

Earlier this year our CEO Emma Cherniavsky travelled to Ukraine and Romania to meet with refugees, displaced families and local humanitarian partners and hear first hand how we can further support them.  

Emma travelled to Uzhhorod, a city in western Ukraine, to visit UNHCR partner Neemia’s Collective Centre. Neemia specialises in child protection, psycho-social support and support for gender-based violence. The centre was founded by Tetiana Machabelli to provide shelter for internally displaced people after war broke out in Ukraine. Once a large institutional building, it has been adapted to provide small apartments housing 60 people. There is a primary school on site for children aged 4-10, some of whom are from the local community and some from displaced families. Thanks to the work of Tetiana and her colleagues, the families at the shelter feel supported. Emma was struck by Tetiana’s warmth and incredible commitment to making everyone feel safe and included. 

As well as speaking to colleagues and partners on the ground, Emma met with families who were forced to flee the harsh realities of war – many of whom fled with only the clothes on their backs and the few belongings they could carry. 

Whilst at the centre, Emma spoke to a four-generation family who fled Kharkiv, including Lyudmila (88), her daughter Olena (63) and her her 7-year old great granddaughter who all now live together there. She also met 21 year old Alina, who fled after her home town of Sloviansk was attacked and now teaches displaced children in the school. 

You can watch Emma’s reflections on her trip to the centre below. 

Our world not only needs more Tetiana’s, but more people willing to support incredible humanitarian efforts globally. It is thanks to the compassion and humanitarian spirit of our supporters and partners across the UK that we can continue to help make this work possible.  

While also a day of acknowledgement, it’s important to take a moment to honour the memory of our colleagues who tragically lost their lives while tirelessly aiding those impacted by conflicts and disasters. From the humanitarian aid workers that were tragically killed during the Syria-Türkiye earthquakes, to the heart-wrenching situations in South Sudan and beyond, we remember their bravery and sacrifice. Their sacrifice and tireless efforts deserve our deepest gratitude. 

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