11 Ideas To Celebrate World Humanitarian Day (2023)

This article is presented in partnership with Project HOPE

Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian organization, working side-by-side with local health workers and communities to save lives and improve the health and well-being of people around the world.

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Variation of the World Humanitarian Day logo: A heart with continents in it
This article is presented in partnership with Project HOPE

At Good Good Good, we’re inspired by the words of Mister Rogers when he said, “You will always find people who are helping.” No matter what disaster, disease, or injustice is impacting a community, there are always people who are stepping up to make a difference.

These courageous and impactful people are humanitarians. Whether they’re supporting their own community or supporting a community across the globe, aid workers sacrificially work for the betterment of humankind.

According to ReliefWeb (PDF), 274 million people needed humanitarian assistance and protection in 2022. In 2021, that number was a record 235 million. According to the United Nations, in 2020, 117 aid workers were killed, 242 were wounded, and 125 were kidnapped. 108 of those killed were working in their own country. 

The world needs humanitarian support more than ever — and those who step up to serve that role deserve our support. (And not only our support, but also the financial resources they need to be able to stay safe and healthy.)

World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to celebrate, learn from, and support humanitarians around the world.

By the way, some of the links in this article (like books!) are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

What is World Humanitarian Day?

On August 19th, the world unites in celebrating the unwavering dedication of humanitarians worldwide who rise to meet global challenges. Despite the risks and challenges, they bravely journey into areas ravaged by disasters and conflict zones, committed to rescuing and safeguarding those in distress.

World Humanitarian Day is an annual international holiday that celebrates people who help other people. In honor of active humanitarians, and humanitarians who have lost their lives in the line of duty, the holiday is an opportunity to celebrate and recognize this important work.

Ideas & Activities To Celebrate World Humanitarian Day —

Learn the history of World Humanitarian Day.

Every year on August 19th, World Humanitarian Day is observed in recognition of the humanitarian workers who have died or been injured while engaged in their duties. It is also an important day to commemorate all aid and health workers who continue to provide life-saving care and protection to those who require it, overcoming many challenges to do so.

World Humanitarian Day was created in honor of the August 19th bombing of the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, which killed 22 people, including humanitarian Sergio Vieira de Mello. The United Nations General Assembly designated this day as World Humanitarian Day in 2009.

Learn more about some of the big issues facing the globe.

Humanitarians are amazing at helping individual people and communities who are impacted by enormous challenges, from war and conflict, to pandemics and climate disasters.

Part of honoring the work of humanitarians means understanding what they’re facing. Do your part to learn more about global issues, so it can be easier to stay up to date all year round.

Whether it’s the AIDS epidemic, unrest in Sudan, healthcare worker burnout, climate change, or the war in Ukraine, find a topic you’re passionate about and dig deep.

Stay up-to-date with humanitarian updates worldwide.

Of course, once you’re a little more well-versed in the challenges of the day, you’ll want to stay up-to-date with news from around the globe. Oftentimes, this news isn’t immediately presented when you open your social media apps or newsletters; you will need to seek it out.

Find a trusted source for your global news; whether that’s humanitarian organizations providing on-the-ground updates, a large, trusted news outlet (we love the Associated Press and Reuters), or a local news outlet covering the area of impact. 

Just keep in mind that this news can be unsettling and disturbing — and really can have an impact on our mental health. To decrease compassion fatigue, consider how you can best consume the news intentionally

Read books about humanitarianism.

The best way to truly understand the experience of humanitarians is to read their words — or detailed stories about their lives.

As you honor World Humanitarian Day, consider stopping by your local library, or purchasing a book about this life-saving work.

By the way, some of these book links are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Here are a few recommendations to get your list started:

  • “The Need To Help: The Domestic Arts of International Humanitarianism” by Liisa H. Malkkai (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • “Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid” by Jessica Alexander (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • “An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action for the Twenty-First Century” by James Orbinski (Amazon)
  • “We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time” by José Andrés (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World” by Tracy Kidder (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • “The Education Of An Idealist: A Memoir” by Samantha Power (Bookshop) (Amazon)

Watch documentaries about humanitarians. 

If you’re more of a visual learner, documentaries are also a great source of information about humanitarianism. 

Consider checking out one (or more) of these recommendations:

Read quotes from humanitarians.

Famous humanitarians throughout history have shared their wisdom with the next generation of world changers — and a great way to get started learning from them is via bite-sized quotes.

Read our collection of the best humanitarian quotes from difference-makers like Malala, Chef José Andrés, Nelson Mandela, Bono, Paul Farmer, Mother Teresa, Bryan Stevenson, and more. Share your favorites with others, include them in your next Instagram caption, and let them inspire you to take action.

Follow humanitarians online.

World Humanitarian Day honors the work of humanitarians who are no longer with us — as well as those who continue to do important humanitarian work.

There are so many humanitarians worth following, but here are a few recommendations to get you started:

Donate to humanitarian organizations.

Countless incredible humanitarian organizations are doing important work every day. You can support their ongoing efforts (and hundreds of individual humanitarians as a result) by donating to them in honor of World Humanitarian Day.

Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

Call your elected officials.

Individual donations to nonprofits are great — but governments have the ability to make a difference on a much larger scale. The United States currently spends less than 1% of its total budget on foreign assistance — but that 1% pays incredible dividends for making the world more safe, equitable, sustainable, and prosperous. 

Make a call to your senators and representative and ask them to maintain or increase funding to USAID — to help support important humanitarian work around the world.

(Specifically, you can ask your senators to pass S.2956: The Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act. It already passed the House — and just needs to pass in the Senate.) Editor's note: This has already been signed into law. Great work!

Nervous about calling your elected officials or need quick access to their phone numbers? Rest assured, we have a guide to help you contact your representatives.

Be a humanitarian in your own backyard.

You don’t have to travel across the world to be a humanitarian. You can make a difference wherever you are. The keys to being a good humanitarian are to always listen to the people you’re serving above all else, focus on giving more than you receive from the experience, and persevere in your work even when things get tough.

Explore our articles on how to give back to your community and how to make a difference in the world

Share action steps with your community.

Help others become helpers (meta, we know) by sharing action items and resources about some of the major issues humanitarians are confronting today. 

It can be hard to stare directly in the face of all the overwhelming challenges across the globe, but we all have a role to play for the good of humanity.

Frequently Asked Questions —

What is the 2023 theme for World Humanitarian Day?

According to the United Nations, the theme for World Humanitarian Day 2023 is “No Matter What.” This highlights the ability of humanitarians to prioritize the needs of the people they are helping — regardless of any other factors.

What hashtags should I use for World Humanitarian Day?

The United Nations primarily uses the hashtag #WorldHumanitarianDay — and you can also use this year’s theme’s hashtag: #NoMatterWhat.

What issues do humanitarians care about?

Humanitarian issues include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • World Hunger
  • Maternal Health
  • Natural Disasters
  • Poverty
  • Access to Education
  • Climate Change
  • Inequality

What was the 2022 theme for World Humanitarian Day?

According to the United Nations, the theme for World Humanitarian Day 2022 is “It Takes a Village.” 

What was the 2021 theme?

World Humanitarian Day’s 2021 theme was designated “The Human Race” by the United Nations — centered around the idea that climate change affects everyone, especially the most vulnerable.

What was the 2020 theme?

The 2020 theme for World Humanitarian Day was “Real Life Heroes” in honor of frontline heroes at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.

What were previous WHD themes?

You can explore all of the World Humanitarian Day themes from 2009 (the first year the holiday was celebrated) through this year on the United Nations site.

Article Details

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