NEW YORK, 19th August, 2023 (WAM) - The United Nations on Friday paid tribute to 22 staff members killed in the bombing of its headquarters in Iraq 20 years ago, one of the darkest days in the Organization's history.
The wreath-laying ceremony at the UN in New York was held to mark World Humanitarian Day, commemorated annually on 19 August. This marks the day in 2003 when a suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives outside the UN headquarters at the Canal Hotel in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
More than 150 people were injured in the attack, mainly local and international aid workers helping reconstruct the country.
"That tragedy marked a change in the way humanitarians operate," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his message for World Humanitarian Day, established five years after the attack.
He noted that although humanitarians are respected around the world, they may also be targeted by people seeking to harm them.
This year, the UN and partners are aiming to reach 250 million people worldwide affected by conflict and other crises, or 10 times more than at the time of the Canal Hotel bombing, and amid a shortfall in humanitarian funding.
"As crises multiply, it is unacceptable that humanitarians are being forced to reduce aid to millions of people in need," the Secretary-General said.
The risks that humanitarians face have also multiplied, he added, citing rising geopolitical tensions, blatant disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law, deliberate assault and disinformation campaigns.
Last year, 444 aid workers fell victim to violence in 235 separate attacks. Of that number, 116 were killed, 143 injured and 185 kidnapped. Most were national staff working with non-governmental organizations.