Healthworkers honoured on Humanitarian Day

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the threat of violence against health-care workers, the head of the United Nations Population Fund has said. 

In a statement for World Humanitarian Day on Wednesday, Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem said in 2019, attacks against aid workers exceeded all other records, and now health workers are under the pump.

As well as risks to their health from the COVID-19 pandemic, they are facing attacks by civilians who are motivated by fear and misinformation, she said.

“Despite this surge in violence and disease, these real-life humanitarian heroes are undeterred. People across the world are rising to the challenge of humanitarian work in their communities and around the world.

“We live in a world where heroes don’t wear capes, but many do wear masks and (face) shields. They are superhuman in their perseverance and compassion, and in their hope that, together, we can achieve a better world for all.”

Dr. Kanem said women are dominating the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, as they make up 70 per cent of health and social services workforce globally.

“They are more likely to grapple with unsafe working conditions and unequal access to safety equipment and support,” she said.

“We know that standing strong for sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality also poses serious risks, and that threats, assaults and killings are increasing for women human rights activists.”

As well as health-workers, World Humanitarian Day honours those who are killed while on duty in aid work all over the world.

In 2019 125 humanitarian workers were killed and 124 were kidnapped, according to the European Union.

“Saving lives should never cost lives,” E.U. Vice-President Josep Borrell said.

“Alarmingly, humanitarian needs today are on the rise, accelerated all the more by the coronavirus pandemic.”

The World Health Organisation too is calling on the world to recognise healthcare workers as “real-life heroes,” risking their lives to ensure people have access to services, COVID-19 testing and treatment, and medication. 

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has honoured several Samoan Real Life Heroes on its website

They are: 

  • Maluseu Doris Tulifau, founder of Brown Girl Woke, 
  • Faleasi Loto and Maseline Iuta, two Deaf Association interpreters for the Ministry of Health’s televised programing, 
  • Fiu Fetinai Leaupepe, Tuitagi Momoe and Tumua Lio-Tofete, who each hold different roles at the Samoa Victim’s Support Group
  • Lepaitai Hansell a national professional officer with the World Health Organisation, and
  • Taimalelagi Ramona Tugaga the General Secretary of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and a co-founder and program coordinator of Le Teine Crisis Centre Trust.

World Humanitarian Day commemorates the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, when 22 humanitarian workers lost their lives.

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