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'Civilians are Not a Target,' says UN chief on World Humanitarian Day

19 August 2017 &#150 On World Humanitarian Day, the United Nations and its partners are calling on all global leaders to do everything in their power to protect people caught up in conflict, and to stand with the health and aid workers who risk their lives to help them.

&#8220Let the world know: Civilians are Not A Target,&#8221 underscored Secretary-General António Guterres in his message on the Day.

&#8220On this day, we also take a moment to honour the brave health and aid workers who are targeted or obstructed as they set out to help people in need, and pay tribute to the government employees, and representatives of international organizations and agencies who risk their daily lives to provide humanitarian aid,&#8221 he added.

Despite broad efforts, civilians &#8211 including medial and humanitarian workers &#8211 continue to bear the brunt of intense conflicts around the world.

&#8220They are attacked and their access obstructed, while humanitarian supplies and hospitals are looted by fighting parties. In addition, in cities like Juba and Aleppo, housing, markets, schools and vital civilian infrastructure are destroyed,&#8221 Mr Guterres elaborated.

&#8220No one is winning these wars. We are all losing,&#8221 stressed the UN chief.

The Secretary-General invited everyone &#8220to stand with us in solidarity with civilians in conflict, and with the health and aid workers who risk their lives to help them. Get involved with our online campaign at #NotATarget.&#8221

&#8220On World Humanitarian Day, let us commit to doing everything in our power to protect women, girls, men and boys in the line of fire, and to give them hope of a better future,&#8221 he concluded.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) commended the dedication and courage of its colleagues working on the frontlines of hunger, often at great risk to their own personal safety, to ensure that children and their families have enough to eat.

&#8220Humanitarian workers go where the need is, and far too often that is where conflict is as well,&#8221 said David Beasley, WFP Executive Director, in his message commemorating the Day.

&#8220Fighting and violence drive 80 per cent of all humanitarian needs, and 10 of WFP’s 13 largest food assistance operations are driven primarily by conflict,&#8221 he continued, noting that in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, more than 20 million people are on the brink of famine.

&#8220Increasingly, those involved in the conflicts in these areas are targeting aid workers,&#8221 he added.

&#8220On World Humanitarian Day, we come together to reaffirm that civilians caught in conflict and those who care for them are #NotATarget. We appeal to world leaders to take action to protect them and to deliver on the promise of our mutual, shared humanity,&#8221 concluded Mr. Beasley.

Gender-based violence shatters lives

For its part, the UN gender empowerment entity offered full support to the UN’s #NotATarget campaign, pointing out that violations of international humanitarian law have generated a global protection crisis.

&#8220Every day, young girls are increasingly exposed to early and forced marriage and young boys are forcibly recruited into armed groups,&#8221 said UN Women in a statement marking the Day.

&#8220Sexual and gender-based violence continue to shatter lives and undermine community cohesion,&#8221 it added.

According to UN Women, some 60 per cent of preventable maternal deaths take place in conflict, displacement or natural disaster settings; girls are two and a half times more likely to be out of school in conflict countries; and a reported one in five refugee or displaced women experience sexual violence, with the actual numbers potentially much higher.

&#8220Women are the leaders in their families, communities and societies who drive effective responses to crisis. And it is women and girls who have insights into what is needed and what works, which must inform effective humanitarian response,&#8221 said UN Women.

&#8220On World Humanitarian Day, we must come together to change the status quo &#8211 for women and girls, and for all civilians caught up in crises,&#8221 concluded the statement.

During a special event yesterday at UN Headquarters in New York, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O&#39Brien spoke of the challenges faced by aid workers around the word.

&#8220Last year, 288 aid workers were targeted in 158 attacks. In the past three months alone, relief workers have been shelled and shot at, kidnapped and killed in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria,&#8221 he said. &#8220This is blatantly unacceptable.&#8221


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