CHR urges gov't to protect humanitarian workers from intimidation, attack

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic might have brought the world down on its knees, but humanitarian workers, dubbed as modern-day #RealLifeHeroes, are working tirelessly to bring everybody up and running again, the Commission on Human Rights said Wednesday.

Commission on Human Rights (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

In observance of the 11th World Humanitarian Day Wednesday, the CHR is encouraging everybody to pay tribute to humanitarian workers and has urged the government to protect them from harassment and attacks.

CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said that humanitarian workers are just simple, ordinary citizens who have dedicated themselves to a life of service for vulnerable people in crisis and conflict situations.

Now that the world is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, these humanitarian workers are facing greater challenges in caring for the people, she said.

"The quarantine restrictions pose greater challenges in delivering much-needed aid and assistance to people - not only as part of pandemic response, but alongside addressing conflict, crisis, and natural disasters and calamities. This is further compounded by the risk of contracting the virus themselves in the course of their work," said De Guia.

In recognition of their bravery and sacrifice, this year's global campaign is called #RealLifeHeroes and it celebrates humanitarians all across the globe.

"Despite bleak circumstances, many inspiring stories of heroism emerge from humanitarians who are treating and preventing COVID-19; organizing and providing relief aid to vulnerable communities; rescuing and providing safe spaces for women and children from domestic abuse during the lockdown, and many more. Humanitarian workers have become the face of relief in the direst of situations, especially in communities," De Guia said.

Aside from the threat of contracting the virus, De Guia said that humanitarian workers sadly face harassment, intimidation, and attacks. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure their safety and security in accordance with international humanitarian law and existing domestic laws.

"Violations must be investigated and brought to justice," stressed De Guia, since humanitarian workers are essential to the survival and well-being of those who are hardest hit by the health crisis.

While Filipinos are naturally resilient to hardships and challenges, De Guia said that the government must do its part to help ease the burden of humanitarian workers.

"The government must also be reminded of their obligation -- by virtue of their position and power -- to be at the forefront of humanitarian work," she stressed. "At the same time, the challenge is to leave no one behind, especially the most vulnerable, disadvantaged, and marginalized, so we can give true meaning to healing as os one."