Aid workers assist group of people in a boat on the coast.
Real Life Heroes
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What do you call a person who runs towards danger to save others? Who is undaunted by disease, famine, drought, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, locusts, conflict zones—and now the COVID-19 pandemic?

Would you call that person a hero?
We would, too.

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Nurses are wearing masks and gloves to protect against the Coronavirus, in the health center of Port Bouet, a suburb of Abidjan, in the South of Côte d'Ivoire.
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A nurse takes a girl’s temperature at a Primary Health Care Centre in Beirut, Lebanon.

The Real
Stories of
#RealLifeHeroes

Around the world, many people have grown up with local stories of fictional heroes, from folktales to fantasy epics. Humanitarians didn’t appear in those stories, but this year we bring these unsung heroic stories to life. Featuring the work of writer Arvid Nelson and artists Amber L Jones, Jose Pimienta, Isip Xin, Tom Reilly and Jenis Littles and letterer Nate Piekos, each comic highlights one real-life humanitarian hero.

Volunteers speak with a family about preventive measures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in Hassakeh, Syrian Arab Republic.
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Comic art depicting Dr. Marie Roseline Darnycka Bélizaire riding a motorcycle with another figure.

Dr. Marie Roseline Darnycka Bélizaire

Dr. Bélizaire is no stranger to fighting epidemics under harrowing conditions. As a Field Coordinator with WHO, she helped to lead the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) amid a series of violent attacks.

See her story
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Comic artwork depicting emergency responders entering a building.

Dr. Debryna Dewi Lumanauw

When disaster strikes in Indonesia, from an earthquake to a flood to a volcanic eruption, you’ll often find 28-year-old Dr. Lumanauw in the centre of it.

See her story
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Comic art depicting two men with an assortment of fresh vegetables.

Ismael and the Barikamá Food Collective

Ismael came to Italy in 2009 from Benin, where he had studied economics and social science. He found himself in a country that was going through a dire economic situation with ripples of anti-immigrant sentiment, and in an agricultural industry about to be torn apart by violence.

See his story
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Illustrated portrait of Dr. Mohamud of the FAO.

Dr. Mohamed Hassan Mohamud

The word “hero” may not immediately conjure images of an insect scientist. But once you understand the devastation of a locust invasion, it becomes clear why Dr. Mohamud inspires more than mere accolades.

See his story
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Comic art depicting Dr. Edna Patricia Gomez, wearing a face shield, adjusts her medical gloves.

Dr. Edna Patricia Gomez

Dr. Edna Gomez is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist who left Venezuela with her family in 2018 due to the humanitarian situation. She now works with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to provide women’s health services for Venezuelan migrants and refugees coming into Colombia.

See her story
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A grid of 10 humanitarian heroes from the campaign, from all over the world.

More heroes, more stories.

The stories don’t end here. Read more below for more tales of heroic humanitarians:

In English En Français
En Español اقرأ المزيد

Teams from UNHCR and Operation Welcome (Brazil’s federal response for the Venezuela emergency) work on the construction of a health facility in Boa Vista, to support Roraima state in treating COVID-19 cases.
The Origins

What is world humanitarian day?

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Humanitarians sorting through a large pile of blue surgical gowns to support and protect Egyptian healthcare workers.
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Fatema, age 15, practices social distancing at the WFP Rapid Response food distribution site while being passed a box of high energy biscuits.
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UNICEF staff at the Venezuela’s main airport on June 19,2020

On 19 August 2003, a bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad killed 22 humanitarian aid workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Five years later, the General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 19 August as World Humanitarian Day.

Each year, World Humanitarian Day focuses on a theme, bringing together partners from across the humanitarian system to advocate for the survival, well-being, and dignity of people affected by crises, and for the safety and security of aid workers.

This year, the already difficult work carried out by humanitarians has been made even more so by the COVID-19 pandemic. On World Humanitarian Day we pay tribute and give a heartfelt thanks to these #RealLifeHeroes who help others, no matter how daunting.

The stories of myths and legends have been around since the dawn of time. Tales of fictional feats, embodied enemies and arduous journeys have long been ways to dream big and summon the courage to do what’s right. But the experiences of humanitarians who are getting food to people caught in conflict; providing safe spaces for women and girls; delivering babies as emergencies strike; fighting crop-eating locusts; and providing services in refugee camps, all amid the COVID-19 pandemic—these heroes of our world are more worthy of admiration and celebration. They are not superheroes, but they are real. They are human. And they are often from the very communities who need support the most.


World Humanitarian Day is a campaign by OCHA, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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