Dubai: International aid agencies headquartered in Dubai’s International Humanitarian City (IHC) marked World Humanitarian Day on Monday in honour of more than half a million humanitarian workers who work at the front lines of war, emergency and crises.

In a simple celebration, various United Nations and non-profit organisations gathered and paid tribute to their fallen comrades who died while performing their duty in different operations and also celebrated the contributions and sacrifices of aid workers present.

Giuseppe Saba, CEO of IHC, said, “World Humanitarian Day brings us together, not just to raise the public’s awareness of our aid work, but to support each other. It is also an opportunity to honour and remember our colleagues and friends who time and again selflessly rally in crises. They are the unsung heroes we celebrate today.”

World Humanitarian Day is observed annually every August 19 to commemorate the deaths of 22 humanitarian workers during the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq in 2003.

This year’s celebrations highlighted the importance of women in the field, delivering aid to those in need. Around 40 per cent of aid workers are women, who take on the challenge equally with men.

Mageed Yahia, World Food Programme Director and Representative of UN Resident Coordinator, said they aim to increase that number to 50 per cent.

“Today, the World Food Programme workforce has around 41 per cent women. They work side by side with men in every location, be it in the field or headquarter, or regional offices. The aim is to increase that number to reach 50 per cent to achieve gender parity,” Yahia said.

Yahia said female aid workers play a crucial role in humanitarian work for many reasons including culture. But both men and women are deployed in operations regardless of their gender.

“There is no distinction between men and women when assigning them in the field. Both face these challenges in the course of our work. We are exposed to the challenges of being killed… there are risks of kidnapping or being held hostage. Humanitarians face all these challenges every day,” Yahia said.

During the event, relief items such as tents for refugees, rescue vehicles and other technologies were on display at the IHC showroom. It also included IHC’s very own “Flash Studio”, a mobile communications initiative that allows field staff to share real time information with media outlets and the humanitarian community.

Currently, the IHC is the largest humanitarian hub in the world. It guarantees the UAE’s full support by offering free infrastructure such as offices, warehouses, conference and training rooms and the like to 84 institutions, mainly international humanitarian agencies, and non-profit organisations.

“It’s very important to see how we can facilitate the response, making sure that the life of humanitarian agencies is simpler in order to provide the aid to the affected areas,” said Khalid Al Awadhi, IHC Deputy CEO.