NEWARK – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today released the following statement in observance of World Humanitarian Day:
“Today, on World Humanitarian Day, I recognize and honor humanitarian workers who courageously provide life-saving aid and protection to millions of people whose lives have been torn apart by conflict or disaster. With nearly 80 million forcibly displaced around the world today, their work is needed more than ever before, and often comes at great personal risk as they endure the threat of injury, abduction, harassment, rape, arrest, and even death. Last year marked the highest number of attacks against humanitarian workers in over a decade, with 483 attacked and 125 killed. As this trend continues to increase, humanitarian workers on the frontlines of conflict and natural disaster deserve our profound appreciation and support.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to humanitarian operations around the world. Access restrictions have hindered humanitarian workers’ travel to conflict-affected areas, who face unique challenges in responding to the plight of millions who live in congested environments with insufficient access to health care. I commend those workers who are committed to alleviating the worst effects of the pandemic for the world’s most vulnerable people.
“The international community must renew its commitment to long established principles of international humanitarian and human rights law, and the United States must restore its leadership in championing these principles at the United Nations and in conflicts across the globe. With growing insecurity, proliferating and prolonged conflict, and record levels of human displacement, we have seen humanitarian principles undermined and abused. Humanitarian assistance is not reaching those in need due to restrictions by governments and interference by non-state armed groups in more than 40 countries, and humanitarian workers are more frequently targeted than ever before. I am appalled by recent attacks in places like Niger, Cameroon, and Nigeria where aid workers have been senselessly killed. Moreover, I am alarmed by reports from the World Health Organization that in just 2019 alone there were 1,009 attacks against healthcare workers and facilities.
“Targeted attacks against humanitarians must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Those willing to risk their lives to save others amid conflict and natural disaster require and deserve unconditional protection.”