World Humanitarian Day: Celebrating sustainable humanitarian action


Safia Alattas


On this day in 2009, the United Nations General Assembly formalised the first World Humanitarian day. The day was designated in memory of Sergio Vieira de Mello, a UN humanitarian who died, along with 22 other people, in a bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad in 2003. Today around the world millions of aid and health workers continue to make extraordinary sacrifices to help those most in need and alleviate suffering around the world, and it is only right we celebrate the work they do. 

This year has been particularly challenging for the global community; however, through collaboration, resilience, and drive we have been able to work together to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. Humanitarian action is driven by the passion of individuals on the ground. We understand the importance of empowering the next generation to drive impactful and meaningful action. In doing so, we have supported over 194,000 people, across 50 countries as part of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy. Today, we not only recognise the commitment and tireless efforts of humanitarians but take a moment to reflect on the inspiring work done to save lives, alleviate human suffering and maintain human dignity.

Alwaleed Philanthropies believes in the power of collaboration to tackle the world’s most pressing issues. The pandemic has significantly impacted educational and employment opportunities across the world. For example, immunisation programmes have been disrupted leaving 80 million children across the world under the age of one unprotected from preventable diseases. It is up to us not to let this happen. Together with our partners, such as GAVI: the global vaccine alliance, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation we are working to ensure that all children are given life-saving vaccines.

For World Humanitarian Day, we wanted to highlight three of the projects that our partners are involved in to help some of the most vulnerable communities around the world.


The Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) has an initiative to address both the health and economic repercussions associated with the COVID-19 in 10 Africa nations: Niger, Senegal, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Nigeria, the Sudan, Mauritania, and Cote d’Ivoire.

The volunteers of this initiative have been working tirelessly to provide food assistance to the neediest populations and those most affected by the pandemic, most notably; centres of elderly care, people with disabilities, women victims of violence, orphanages, refugee centres and patients in health centres and hospitals. Most importantly they have begun to build local capacities in the production of sanitisers and protective equipment (gels, protective masks, ventilators) through prioritising local entrepreneurs currently working in the informal sectors. This has the dual benefits of providing people with jobs and helping to improve hygiene in order to tackle the pandemic.

UN Habitat

UN-Habitat works in over 90 countries, supporting people in cities and settlements for a better and sustainable urban future. This is particularly significant as we witness rapidly growing populations across much of the developing world. Taking a sustainable approach to meet this challenge can help lead to a cleaner, greener and more prosperous world. During the pandemic the UN Habitat aid workers have been working to establish shelter and rehabilitate damaged housings in order to address overcrowding and enable social/physical distancing and curb the spread of Covid-19.

Misr El Kheir Foundation

Away from the pandemic for a moment and keeping with the theme of sustainable urbanisation, Misr El Kheir Foundation is a local charity in Egypt which has launched the Sutra Project, an initiative that aims to build 10,000 housing units for Egyptian families with the highest needs over the next ten years. Alwaleed Philanthropies is assisting them in this by partnering with the Egyptian Ministries of Housing, Urban Communities, Local Development and Social Welfare to help the Misr El Kheir Foundation complete its mission.

These are just three of the countless projects that help to alleviate and support in the development of communities around the world. None of these projects would be possible without the tireless commitment of aid and humanitarian workers. Their work continues to inspire us each and every day. Today we commemorate not only their work, but the countless lives they have helped to save.

Safia Alattas is the Executive Manager of Operations Department at Alwaleed Philanthropies.

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