On 19 August 2003, a bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad killed 22 humanitarian aid workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Five years later, the General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 19 August as World Humanitarian Day.

Each year, World Humanitarian Day focuses on a theme, bringing together partners from across the humanitarian system to advocate for the survival, well-being, and dignity of people affected by crises, and for the safety and security of aid workers.

This year, the already difficult work carried out by humanitarians has been made even more so by the COVID-19 pandemic. On World Humanitarian Day we pay tribute and give a heartfelt thanks to these #RealLifeHeroes who help others, no matter how daunting.

The stories of myths and legends have been around since the dawn of time. Tales of fictional feats, embodied enemies and arduous journeys have long been ways to dream big and summon the courage to do what’s right. But the experiences of humanitarians who are getting food to people caught in conflict; providing safe spaces for women and girls; delivering babies as emergencies strike; fighting crop-eating locusts; and providing services in refugee camps, all amid the COVID-19 pandemic—these heroes of our world are more worthy of admiration and celebration. They are not superheroes, but they are real. They are human. And they are often from the very communities who need support the most.

Learn more on
World Humanitarian Day 2020