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HuffPost: The Challenge of Disaster Response: Lessons on World Humanitarian Day

Authors: Eric Schwartz, and Susan Reichle
August 19, 2010


To mark World Humanitarian Day on August 19, Eric Schwartz and Susan Reichle look at lessons to be learned from humanitarian crises over the last decade and how the United States can become more effective in its civilian relief efforts across the globe.

More than ever before, our world seems engulfed in humanitarian crises, with overwhelming suffering from conflict, hurricanes and earthquakes, and enormous dangers faced by those trying to help people in need.

Only twelve days ago, ten dedicated medical aid workers were brutally murdered in Afghanistan. Pakistan now confronts devastating floods of historical proportions. In Kyrgyzstan, violence and intimidation forced some 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks to flee their homes in June. Malnutrition is lurking in Niger, while multi-year relief efforts continue in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Amid these and other disasters, governments and humanitarian organizations around the world today observe World Humanitarian Day, which the UN established to pay tribute to aid efforts for victims of conflict and natural disasters, and to honor the memory of more than 700 humanitarian relief workers worldwide who lost their lives in service during the past decade. August 19 also marks the tragic anniversary of the 2003 terrorist bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 people - including Sergio Vieira de Mello, one of the UN's most experienced and effective humanitarian leaders.

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