The international Catholic aid agency, Caritas Internationalis, says that its ability to support the most vulnerable people in conflict zones has been severely restricted by the actions of governments over the last 18 months.
“From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, Georgia to Gaza, Sri Lanka to Sudan, we’re seeing the erosion of one of the central pillars of humanitarianism. Aid agencies must be allowed to reach the most vulnerable people in conflicts,” commented Caritas Internationalis Humanitarian Director, Alistair Dutton, in a comment on the occasion of the first ever World Humanitarian Day.
In Zimbabwe, the government suspended all aid agency field operations following its contested elections, while in Sudan’s Darfur region, the government expelled 13 international NGOs from the country.
“Governments must use this first World Humanitarian Day [to] reassert their commitment to safeguarding this principle as part of their obligations under the Geneva Conventions,” Dutton declared.
Caritas assists 24 million people a year in 200 countries and territories.
Set up by by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in December 2008, last Wednesday's World Humanitarian Day (19 August) was a way to increase public understanding of humanitarian assistance activities worldwide.
The day is dedicated to the memory of the substantial number of aid workers who have lost their lives while bringing assistance to others.
The majority of them come from the communities they are trying to help, rather than from the outside.
It is estimated that 260 humanitarian workers were victims of murder, kidnapping and serious injury in 2008. This is nearly four times the number from 10 years ago.