August 19 is World Humanitarian Day — a time to honor those who alleviate suffering and a call to action.
No matter how much time I spend in disaster zones around the world, there’s no getting used to the suffering. Every home lost, every school crumbled…let’s just say, I’ve yet to go on a trip where I don’t shed a tear.
And while I’ve met a lot of humanitarians who are much tougher than I, they’re still only human. Are they sweating in those protective Ebola suits in West Africa? Yes. Are they exhausted after delivering aid packages 30 days in a row? Yes. Are some of them scared in conflict zones? You bet.
But they do it. Humanitarians make a conscious decision every single day to get up, tough it out, and make their neighborhoods and this earth a better place. In honor of World Humanitarian Day, here are seven photos that celebrate the people behind the word. Humans, one and all.
Red Crescent volunteers deliver food for children in the eastern part of Aleppo, Syria in 2015. Humanitarians risk their lives to deliver aid in besieged areas. The global Red Cross Red Crescent network is now reaching around 4.5 million people in Syria every month. Abdul Kader Fayad/Syrian Arab Red Crescent
Ten years after a massive tsunami struck, Zatin Abdullah plants mangrove saplings in Aceh Jaya, Indonesia. Mangroves not only slow storm surges and erosion, but they also absorb three times as much carbon dioxide as other trees, dissolve heavy metals like mercury from the soil and water, and provide a habitat for shrimp and oysters. Jenelle Eli/American Red Cross
Anton Chilufya is a volunteer from the Zambia Red Cross. In 2003, he was among the first in his country to involve himself in the fight for the elimination of measles at the community level. His work involved visiting families in his neighborhood on a monthly basis, checking that everyone was healthy, especially young children. One of his objectives was to persuade parents to have their sons and daughters immunized against measles. Then he would take the children on his bicycle to the closest vaccination center, which can be some distance away. Help was crucial for parents as most of them needed to look after their land and their other children so they could not afford to leave home for any length of time. Marko Kokic/IFRC
Children make up a good portion of the refugees who have fled electoral violence in Burundi. They live in camps in Tanzania where 60 percent of the population suffers from malaria. Dorothy Muchaki, a nurse in the refugee camp is there for them. “For me, humanitarian work is a calling. It’s a passion. Nobody wants to go out and do these things. But I can do it. There are people who are suffering and I want to alleviate their suffering, even it is something small,” she says. Niki Clark/American Red Cross
On the shores of Lesvos, Greece, a Red Cross rescue team helps migrants out of their lifeboat in 2015. All over the world, Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers are delivering shelter, food, medical care, and other vital support to people displaced from their homes. Charlotte Hyest/Belgian Red Cross
Sharon Butler-Walker is a new American Red Cross volunteer, who is inspired to help others because “she loves helping” and she says there’s a great need for volunteers. She brought Glenda Hill to her temporary lodging at the Red Cross shelter in Gonzales, Louisiana after devastating floods
left thousands of people displaced. Marko Kokic/American Red Cross
Two members of the Liberian Red Cross hold hands in Monrovia, March 2014. “I captured this photo of two burial team members as they walked to pray for someone who had died during the Ebola outbreak,” says photographer Victor Lacken. “At a time when people were not allowed to touch, this was the safest way to do so.” Victor Lacken/IFRC
So here’s to celebrating some beautiful humans who make our world a better place. They walk four hours to deliver meals; enter conflict zones to provide medicine; wade into the ocean to help the displaced; and bring hope to people who are often experiencing the worst day of their lives.
These photos not only bring a quick smile to my face, but also remind me that as long as humanitarians are around—and as long as they continue to help people regardless of race, religion, gender, and political affiliation?—?the world is going to be okay.
Read more about how the Red Cross helps communities around the world.