Reaching children with lifesaving assistance and protection when they need it most
Millions of people around the world are living in crisis, whether in conflict or other disasters – and they need our support. At the backbone of our emergency response are our humanitarians, who go through enormous personal risk and hardship to protect the lives of children.
On World Humanitarian Day this 19 August, we honour the humanitarians who provide life-changing support to many children around the world. And we acknowledge the humanitarian response they deliver where the need is greatest – in places of health crises, conflict and climate emergencies.
“We obviously take sides. We take the side of children.”
Twenty years ago, Sonia Khush was working in Iraq, when a terrorist attack on the UN offices in Baghdad killed 22 UN staff. This day and the outpouring that resulted led to the first World Humanitarian Day – a day when we remember the enormous risks humanitarian workers take in their daily work.
“It was shocking. It was tragic. People I had been working with died that day,” Sonia shares.
This attack was one of the most lethal in UN history, and it was the first time that a neutral international humanitarian organisation had been deliberately targeted like this.
“We obviously take sides. We take the side of children. Of their rights, of their need for food, education, healthcare and a clean environment. Which interestingly often puts us at a path of collision with certain…authorities. So how do we be brave and speak out, yet still be able to operate in the same country? That’s an ongoing issue that we constantly deal with in countries where we work,” explains Sonia.
It’s just one of the challenges Sonia faces in this line of work, and in her current post as Country Director for Save the Children Ukraine. For someone whose past postings include Syria, Philippines, Pakistan, and Haiti, Sonia is no stranger to playing “an active role in helping children impacted by deep, transformative times.”
But she says, “The best part of my job is when I get to go out to the field and be with the field teams, see our programs, and talk to people who are benefiting from our work to hear about their lives. Learning about their challenges, how the conflict has affected them, and what they need, is the most fulfilling part of my job.”
As shown in this video, Sonia goes out near frontlines of conflict in Ukraine to help reach families with programs like cash assistance.