Action Against Hunger staff in South Sudan stand up for aid workers everywhere - because humanitarians are #notatarget.

#NotATarget: World Humanitarian Day 2018

On August 19 and beyond, Action Against Hunger stands with aid workers, who put their lives on the line to deliver lifesaving aid to the people who need it most.

Action Against Hunger stands with the international community on August 19 to recognize World Humanitarian Day—a day to celebrate the hard work of aid workers everywhere, to remember the friends and colleagues our community has lost, to advocate for stronger protections and better and safer access to people in need, and to demand accountability and justice for violations of international humanitarian law.

Today and every day, Action Against Hunger pays tribute to aid workers around the world, who put themselves at risk to save lives and relieve the suffering of people affected by disaster and conflict.

Action Against Hunger Chief Executive Andrea Tamburini said:

Humanitarian actors cannot end conflict, but they are a lifeline for the civilian men, women, and children who suffer its consequences. Aid workers put their lives on the line to deliver lifesaving food, water, medicines, and more to populations affected by armed violence. We urge all parties to conflict to uphold international humanitarian law and to demand justice when it is violated. The international community can and must do more to protect aid workers and civilians.


An Action Against Hunger aid worker with a Syrian refugee in Jordan.

Photo: Florian Seriex
for Action Against Hunger, Jordan.

Conflict Fuels Hunger

War and armed conflict are a major cause of hunger – a fact unanimously affirmed by the UN Security Council in May 2018. International humanitarian law prohibits all parties to armed conflict from directing attacks against civilians and obligates them to protect civilians, including aid workers. Yet, aid workers and civilians are increasingly targeted with impunity: direct attacks on protected spaces including homes, hospitals, humanitarian aid operations, aid convoys delivering relief supplies, and public gatherings.  

In some of the world’s worst conflicts—including South Sudan, northeast Nigeria, Central African Republic, Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan—aid workers cannot safely reach the communities most in need of humanitarian assistance, which is a violation of international humanitarian law. Aid workers, civilians, and protected spaces like hospitals, refugee camps, and schools have all been targeted and attacked in the last year.

Parties to conflict increasingly defy international humanitarian law, despite their obligations to ensure that civilians in need have safe, timely, unimpeded access to humanitarian aid.

The safety and security of humanitarian relief personnel is required for humanitarian relief to be delivered to civilian populations in need. Violence against humanitarian staff prevents aid agencies from reaching vulnerable people with lifesaving food, medical care, shelter, water, and relief supplies. Under international humanitarian law, parties to conflict must respect and protect humanitarian relief personnel.

Jenite Forrelus, Action Against Hunger Nurse Educator in Haiti, weighs a child.

Photo: Christophe Da Silva
for Action Against Hunger, Haiti

Violence Against Aid Workers: Key Facts

The Aid Worker Security Database catalogs every reported incident of violence against humanitarian workers, and the statistics are alarming.

In 2017 alone:

  • 158 major incidents of violence against humanitarian operations were documented last year in 22 countries.
  • 313 aid workers were victims of some type of attack: 139 were killed, 102 wounded, and 72 kidnapped.
  • Most of these attacks occurred in the conflict-affected countries of South Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, and Central African Republic (CAR), which together accounted for two thirds of all major incidents.
  • 34 of the 46 countries where Action Against Hunger intervened in 2017 are countries in conflict or affected by conflicts. Our organization registered 85 security incidents in this period, 13 of them critical.
  • In 2017, the number of victims belonging to national and local NGOs sharply increased. The majority of the world’s humanitarian personnel are national aid workers. National aid workers fill most of the critical field positions in humanitarian organizations, and they are the most frequent victims of attacks.

Learn more: Visit the database online here

Peter Majok Yak and Maria Apet Mayen are both Stabilization Center Nurses for Action Against Hunger in Malualkon, South Sudan. South Sudan is one the world's most dangerous places for aid workers.

Photo: Guy Calaf and Lys Arango
for Action Against Hunger, South Sudan

Humanitarians are #NotATarget 

Action Against Hunger is deeply alarmed by the unprecedented scale of humanitarian needs caused by conflict and the increasing impunity of attacks on civilians and aid workers. We call on all parties to armed conflicts—and those who influence them—to uphold international humanitarian law and acknowledge that civilians and aid workers are not a target.

The deliberate, targeted killings of 17 Action Against Hunger aid workers in Muttur, Sri Lanka occurred twelve years ago, on August 4, 2006. Although the attack is one of the most serious recent crimes against humanitarian personnel worldwide, government authorities still have not taken any action to bring those responsible for the crime to justice. We remember their sacrifice in service of humanity and demand justice and accountability.

On World Humanitarian Day, Action Against Hunger honors aid workers all over the world who are risking their lives to serve those in need. We join our humanitarian partners in urging world leaders—and all those in a position of power—to do everything possible to meet their duty to protect civilians and aid workers.

In Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, aid workers prepare meals to serve to Rohingya refugees at an Action Against Hunger community kitchen.

Photo: Kathleen Prior
for Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh

Take Action


Action Against Hunger is the world’s hunger specialist and leader in a global movement that aims to end life-threatening hunger for good within our lifetimes. For 40 years, the humanitarian and development organization has been on the front lines, treating and preventing hunger across nearly 50 countries. It served more than 21 million people in 2018 alone.