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World Humanitarian Day: Humanitarian Heroes

19 Aug 2014

Today, 19 August, is World Humanitarian Day – the day in 2003 when 22 aid workers were killed when the UN headquarters in Baghdad were bombed.

It's an occasion to remember all the people who have lost their lives in their work as humanitarians and to celebrate the humanitarian spirit.

This year, we are profiling Humanitarian Heroes - people from all walks of life and of all ages, who are committed to making a difference. You can get involved by tweeting #humanitarianheroes and supporting people who risk their lives for others. 

This photo blog brings together some of the best examples of HelpAge staff, partners and older people themselves and their humanitarian work around the world:

Muaid, HelpAge’s Logistics Manager, in front of destroyed houses in Gaza. (c) Nader Al Farra/HelpAge International

Muaid, HelpAge Logistics Manager in Gaza:

With our local partners, we're on the ground responding to older people's most urgent needs in Gaza.

We have distributed hundreds of hygiene kits, which include soap and toilet paper and are ensuring older people are included in food distributions. We're also referring older people to the services they need, such as healthcare.

To help older people affected by the Gaza crisis, you can donate to Age International, our sister organisation.

Older volunteer in the Philippines. Photo (c) Rosemarie Capin Placencia/HelpAge International

Genaro, an older volunteer in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan:

Genaro (pictured right) is one of the many wonderful older volunteers who have helped our programme in the Philippines to gather information about the needs of other older people in their communities.

He says: “It was a remarkable experience for me to be given the chance to volunteer for a international organisation, and to find that my age doesn’t hinders me to do so.

“I will continue to assist organisations who come to our community such as HelpAge-COSE, because aside from the fact that their programmes help us rebuild our community, they have also helped us prove that we the older persons can still do great things.”

Elema, 75 from Ethiopia. (c) Erna Mentesnot-Hintz

Elema, 75, from Ethiopia:

“The drought robbed us of our 39 cattle and 25 sheep and goats. My biggest worries for the time being are food and the lack of a reliable water supply.

“I have received some money from a HelpAge joint project. This helps me buy the things I need such as salt, milk and medication. But if the cash transfer stopped coming, our lives - the grandchildren’s and mine, will be at severe risk.”

Toby Porter, HelpAge CEO, in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. (c) Vincent Henson/HelpAge International

Toby Porter, HelpAge CEO, visits our work in the Philippines to help older people and their families affected by Typhoon Haiyan:

"The damage caused by the winds and tidal surge of Typhoon Haiyan is truly devastating. Comparisons to the damage caused by the 2004 Tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, are not overdone - it's a very natural thing to imagine yourself in a flood or a hurricane, and think that somehow you would always be able to keep yourself and your family safe, but events like this remind us that there are some events where this is simply not the case.

"Alongside the devastation, there is an outpouring of compassion across the world. It has been wonderful to see the way that the HelpAge network has mobilised so effectively."

A community nurse in Haiti. (c) Frederic Dupoux/HelpAge International

Diliane, 80, from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, pictured with HelpAge community nurse, Marie-Lourdes Etienne:

"On the day of the earthquake, I saw people running. Then I felt the ground move. I didn’t understand what was happening.

“I came into contact with HelpAge for the first time in June 2010. I was visited by a carer; he visits me often and if he has anything, he shares it with me.

“I also attended a HelpAge eye camp. The home carer once referred me to a hospital for a consultation for my arthritis and I got some medication."

Epefania, 65 at a HelpAge and COSE health assessment in Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. (c) Carolyn Canham/HelpAge International

Epefania, 65, at a HelpAge-COSE health assessment in Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan:

“I came to the health assessment because I wanted a check-up. I have constant headaches and hypertension.

HelpAge and COSE provided the transport today, if they hadn’t, I couldn’t have come. There is no regular public transport to and from my community, so when you go outside the community, you have to walk."

Find out more about our work to support older people in emergencies.

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Author profile

Sarah Marzouk
Country: UK
Job title: Digital Communications

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.