Today is World Humanitarian Day. Reaching out to those suffering from crisis and disaster is a fundamental human impulse and a deeply enshrined American value. It is a value we share with people around the globe. It is the silver lining of any crisis, when the best of who we are as people emerges just when things are the bleakest.
Today is an opportunity to honor the humanitarian impulse in all of us and to applaud all the ways in which people mobilize to help others, even when they have little to spare. I saw it in Tunisia in March, when people, already reeling from an economic plunge, spontaneously organized to take in Libyan refugees who needed help. We are seeing it with the Kenyans for Kenya campaign, a growing movement in Kenya to raise funds through a text campaign to help their neighbors suffering from a brutal drought. And I saw it when I visited Somali-American communities in the Midwest who are washing cars, having bake sales and canvassing local businesses to raise funds for those struggling to survive famine in Somalia.
Today is an opportunity to salute those humanitarian workers who spend their lives providing service, often at great personal risk. World Humanitarian Day was established in 2003 in honor of the humanitarian workers who lost their lives in the tragic bombing at the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq. In 2010, 242 aid workers were killed, injured, or kidnapped, according to the United Nations. As of April of this year, 12 aid workers have been killed and 10 been kidnapped. So today is a reminder of the daily risks aid workers face, and an opportunity to honor those who continue to spend their careers and lives devoted to humanitarian work. Being a relief worker these days often means ever greater risk is required to reach those most in need.
As we reflect on the legacies and lives of the aid workers who paid the ultimate price in service to helping others—whether during the devastating earthquake in Haiti last year or in active conflict zones—let us also appreciate the tremendous service that aid workers worldwide continue to perform every day, despite the risks, and in pursuit of a more peaceful and prosperous planet.
World Humanitarian Day is above all a celebration of all the ways people help others around the world. And I cannot think of a better way to honor humanitarians than to encourage you to help those in eastern Africa who are struggling to survive in the wake of the worst drought in 60 years.
So how can you help? The quickest, most efficient way is to make a cash donation to a relief organization that is already working in the drought and famine zone. Cash donations are the most effective form of assistance because they allow humanitarian organizations to purchase the exact type and quantity of items needed by those affected by the crisis. Donated goods require international transportation and handling, which is expensive, complex, and time-consuming; in addition, they are often not labeled in the appropriate language or packaged appropriately for storage and distribution.
USAID does not accept donations; so click here to find an organization currently providing humanitarian assistance in east Africa. Questions to consider when selecting an organization include whether the organization can provide a clear description of how they are assisting in the region, a solid history of experience delivering aid, and a transparent explanation of how funds will be used.
The USAID-supported Center for International Disaster Information has 100 ways that you can raise funds for international relief efforts. Tell us in the comments section, on Facebook, or on Twitter: how have you raised money or awareness to benefit the victims of the East Africa drought?