Commemorating The World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day is an international day dedicated to recognizing philanthropists, as well as, those who have lost their lives working for humanitarian causes. Being humanitarian means helping people who are suffering and saving lives at any time around the world. Humanitarian work requires being responsible, conscious of the circumstances of other people's lives, and helping people based on their need, without discrimination.

In the sight of working for the greater goods, philanthropists seem so much alike with us – environmentalists. We are saving lives in the long term perspective and helping life live on a better Earth. In Oxygenate's blog this week, we will talk about World Humanitarian Day. Are environmentalists, philanthropists? How should we commemorate humanitarian efforts? These are just some of the questions we will address.

Why Celebrate World Humanitarian Day?

Every year, thousands of people around the world put their lives in danger working in Humanitarian causes. Working in the most poverty and illness stricken developing countries, often in areas of great social violence, heroes put their lives on the line, and sometimes lose them, in the pursuit of a better planet. World Humanitarian Day is a day we commemorate these heroes and their sacrifices.

This day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate the death of Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 of his fellow humanitarians in a bombing of the Baghdad headquarters of the UN. Sergio had relentlessly attempted to pull together the Draft for the official designation of World Humanitarian Day. World Humanitarian Day was officially established to recognize Sergio and all humanitarian personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifices for the less fortunate and to show that their efforts were not in vain.

Every humanitarian Is An Environmentalist

Even though there’s no official acknowledgment of humanitarians being environmentalists, there’s a tacit consent that it is. Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment also deems every humanitarian as an environmentalist.

Not everyone can help directly in the aftermath of a crisis. Yet humanitarians do much more than provide immediate relief. They help rebuild lives after disasters. They build resilience in communities. They create the foundations of long-lasting peace, stability, and well-being. There are ways for everyone to help with these goals. This is why everyone can be a humanitarian.

It is also why every humanitarian is an environmentalist. The environment is at the heart of everything. It is where the foundation on which peace, stability, and well-being are all developed. To care for the environment is to care for humanity. 


We cannot think of being a humanitarian and environmentalist as being mutually exclusive. After drug smuggling, counterfeiting, and human trafficking, environmental crime is the 4th most valuable criminal enterprise on the planet. Profits from environmental crime — which ranges from the illegal trade of natural resources to trafficking hazardous materials — fund civil wars, criminal cartels, and terror groups such as ISIS.

Environmental degradation can also fuel wars. As ecosystems become less productive and supportive to human populations, this will often prompt migration, which can prompt conflict. Wars have broken out, droughts, floods or other extreme weather events become extremely difficult to handle. It is a vicious cycle. And this is why every humanitarian tends to care about the environment.

Humanitarian Footprints

Since there have been so many places where humanitarian support is needed, it’s hard to list all the major events and heroes that have made an overwhelmingly positive change.  But, here are some already well known famous humanitarians of the 20th century – Oprah Winfrey, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, etc.

  • Oprah Winfrey

Although she grew up in poverty in a rural area with a teenage single mother, she is now one of the most famous American show hosts and is well-known for her great efforts in helping people in need. One of her most celebrated projects is the one she started to help starving kids in Africa. She started a foundation in South Africa that has helped donate millions to support movements and dreams of many young girls.

  • Princess Diana

 Princess Diana was admired for her ground-breaking charity work; Particularly, her work with AIDS patients and supporting the campaign for banning landmines. 

 “I’ve always thought that people need to feel good about themselves and I see my role as offering support to them, to provide some light along the way….”

Princess Diana


In 1987, Princess Diana was one of the first well-known celebrities to be photographed with a victim of AIDS. This was important in changing attitudes to the disease. At the time, many thought the disease could be contacted by touch alone. She was one of the first very high profile people to be pictured touching those afflicted with AIDS.  This had a significant impact on changing people’s opinions and attitudes of the disease. It was an act that did not follow the protocol and tradition of the Royal family. 

 “I am not a political figure. The fact is I am a humanitarian figure. I always have been and I always will be.”

Princess Diana

What We Can Do To Commemorate WHD

If we strive for a healthy environment, we are ultimately striving for human welfare. We can also commemorate the victims that suffered from the many tragedies. More than 130 million people worldwide need humanitarian assistance to survive. Some are caught in conflict. Some are caught in disasters beyond human control. Others are caught in disasters humanity has made worse.

If you want to truly celebrate this day, take the time to stimulate your thoughts and make an effort to support the world’s poor and needy. Just a little help can make a huge difference, especially now more than ever. 

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