Written by Maria Olivia Laurent, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
On 19 August 2003, the world was stunned to silence by the bombing attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq. On that day as well, the humanitarian sector suffered a tragedy unlike ever before, with 22 people dead, including the chief humanitarian in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, in a targeted attack on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). To remember the losses that day and the significant effort from all humanitarian workers, the United Nations formalized 19 August as World Humanitarian Day. Today, we celebrate the hard work of all workers who have given their lives and dedication in providing support and protection to people most in need. This year’s World Humanitarian Day’s theme is #RealLifeHeroes, focusing on the inspiring personal stories of humanitarian heroes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Events and campaigns held by various organizations worldwide bring together partners and institutions to advocate for the well-being of aid workers. I believe everyone who reads this article is a humanitarian, whether you work in this sector, or you have a passion as one. Let’s discuss what being a humanitarian really is and our roles as young people in it!
What is humanitarian aid? Is it the same with other types of emergency aid?
Yep, any aid given during emergencies and disasters is considered humanitarian aid. All programs, procedures, and supports are designed to save lives and alleviate suffering during and in the aftermath of crises. The ‘human’ in humanitarian means that those aids directly benefit the affected people. For example, giving shelter and food to earthquake victims, treating injured civilians in war, connecting displaced families, etc. Have you ever donated to an emergency fundraiser? If yes, you can also be considered giving humanitarian support. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) of the UN is the main body responsible for coordinating emergency responses.
During emergencies and conflicts in their countries, young people are forced to shoulder the burden of fighting on the frontlines for their communities and become extremely vulnerable to violence and exploitation. Many are forced to drop out of school to care for their families. Basic necessities like safety, health, and sanitation are also cut off. Children face the dangers of being illegally recruited as child laborers and soldiers. Girls may also face pressure to marry early to secure their families’ survival, effectively killing their dream and future in these uncertain times.
If we look at the bigger picture, even aid workers in international organizations are also subjected to discriminative treatment. Either their hard work is overlooked, or their communities don’t receive enough support to do their mission. But if you begin to doubt if your work really matters, please don’t! We may not have much money or resources, but remember, our voice and perspective are invaluable. The development of technology and education have profited the humanitarian sector and modern innovation on how to help people better as well. Young people’s knowledge of social dynamics and disaster prevention like flooding and climate change help countries prepare and recover from crises. More and more young volunteers are going straight to the center of disasters and becoming agents of change.
As first responders, we must demand to be involved in decision-making and leadership positions. After all, we know our communities better than others. Organizations need to have a balanced power structure and promote youth representation. This way, we are not only helping those in need, but also improving our knowledge of natural and social issues that arise. Women, especially, as the largest victim group in any disaster, must be equally acknowledged. The humanitarian industry is still dominated by men and often fails to listen to women’s opinions. Because of this, potential aids and programs may neglect women’s needs. Maximizing young girls’ roles is essential in designing and implementing the action plan. If we can start having an equal power dynamic in the humanitarian industry—undoubtedly the industry which revolves around people most—then I believe other industries will also follow and reinforce the roles of young men and women.
Guidelines for Youth Humanitarian Initiatives
This IASC guideline created by UNICEF and several partner organizations focused on the key points related to services, participation, resources, and data that youth communities can use to develop their programs both in emergency aid and peacebuilding initiatives. “These new guidelines call upon us to give away power; to trust young people and to work with them as partners by giving them safe space to meet and discuss their ideas on how they can improve life in their own communities,” said Henrietta Fore, the UNICEF Executive Director (UNICEF, 2021). Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic provides many opportunities for the youth to contribute by raising awareness, countering misinformation on social media (hoaxes), and mobilizing assistance by being medic volunteers or field operational personnel.
The five key points are:
- Service – Promoting inclusive programs for all young people within humanitarian settings.
- Participation – Supporting engagement and partnership with youth, through sharing information and involvement in decision-making processes such as budget allocation, etc.
- Capacity – Strengthening young people’s capacities and capabilities as humanitarian actors and empowering local youth-led activities.
- Resources – Increasing resources for the needs and priorities of youth affected by crises.
- Data – Ensuring the use of age-and-sex-disaggregated data pertaining to youth in humanitarian settings.
There are so many humanitarian organizations and communities both in Indonesia and worldwide you can join and contribute to. Each of them caters to specific needs, such as education, gender equality, poverty alleviation, and others that you can adjust to your interest. Project Child Indonesia has various programs focusing on children’s development, especially their educational needs and wellbeing. Through our programs Sekolah Sungai, Mindfulness, and Online Learning Assistance, we thrive on helping children from poor communities to reach their full potential. Check out our website and social media to know more. Lastly, happy World Humanitarian Day to all workers and contributors, and we hope to see you as our next humanity warriors!
Adolescents in humanitarian action. (n.d.). UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/adolescence/humanitarian-action
IASC Guidelines on Working with and for Young People in Humanitarian and Protracted Crises. (2020, November 2). IASC. https://interagencystandingcommittee.org/events/iasc-guidelines-working-and-young-people-humanitarian-and-protracted-crises
Shifting power to young people in humanitarian action. (2019, June 24). Action Aid. https://actionaid.org/publications/2019/shifting-power-young-people-humanitarian-action
World Humanitarian Day. (n.d.). OCHA. https://about.worldhumanitarianday.org/