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2019 was the most dangerous year ever for aid workers

More relief workers were attacked in 2019 than ever before, the United Nations said on Wednesday as it marked World Humanitarian Day.

According to the UN, 483 aid workers were subject to attacks last year, an 18 per cent rise on 2018 and the highest number ever recorded.

Among those, 125 were killed, 234 were wounded and 124 were kidnapped in 277 separate incidents.

Most of the attacks against humanitarian workers took place in Syria, followed by South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.

"These real-life heroes are doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times to help women and children whose lives are upended by crises," UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres.

He highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has upped the pressure on relief workers, who in many places around the world have taken on the role of first responders.

"They are the unsung heroes of the pandemic response — and they all too often risk their lives to save the lives of others," he said.

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, president of the UN General Assembly also stressed that relief workers have also had to deal with "a massive spike in humanitarian needs in 63 countries" this year "despite the largest-ever funding shortfall".

The European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, urged "all parties to conflicts worldwide to abstain from targeting civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals."

"Alarmingly, humanitarian needs today are on the rise, accelerated all the more by the coronavirus pandemic.

"The European Commission will support humanitarian funding with almost €10 billion over the next 7 years," he added.

The UN also noted a surge in attacks against health workers and facilities which claimed the lives of 199 people last year.

World Humanitarian Day has been marked on August 19 for the past 11 years. The date was chosen in memory of the August 19, 2003 bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, which killed 22 people including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq.

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