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Meet the Humanitarians who are Real Life Heroes

A woman in a checkered head wrap stands in front of a crowd of seated women.

Photo: Maimouna A. Djibo/CARE Niger/Burkina Faso

Photo: Maimouna A. Djibo/CARE Niger/Burkina Faso

In honor of World Humanitarian Day, join us in recognizing the local heroes risking their lives daily to support their communities.

World Humanitarian Day, celebrated annually on August 19, recognizes those who put their lives on the line for humanitarian causes.

Those who work in crisis settings risk their safety to deliver aid and support the most marginalized. To date this year, 203 aid workers have been attacked. Of those, 74 have been killed. The most dangerous countries for aid workers — Syria, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, and Central African Republic — are also countries with some of the most pressing needs.

The COVID-19 outbreak, which has claimed over 770,000 deaths globally, is currently the biggest challenge to humanitarian operations around the world, as needs surge and governments place restrictions on nearly every aspect of life.




This World Humanitarian Day, we’re spotlighting the humanitarian workers who protect and support their communities. Often, this stressful but life-saving day job is balanced with domestic and caregiving duties, especially for women who are typically responsible for household chores and childcare.

“If anything, COVID-19 has highlighted and driven home the critical role played by local communities, civil society and NGOs, including women-led and women’s organizations, as frontline responders in their own countries.,” says Sally Austin, CARE International head of emergency operations.

CARE’s lifesaving work is possible because of these frontline heroes who show up every day and continue to advocate for the rights of women and girls, empower the marginalized, and work to break the cycle of poverty.


A woman in a checkered head wrap stands in front of a crowd of seated women.
Photo: Maimouna A. Djibo/ CARE Niger/ Burkina Faso

Oumma Bermo, 70, (front, center) who is passionate about women’s representation, addresses a group of male decision-makers in her community.

Although Oumma has never attended school, she has devoted much of her life to stopping childhood marriage, and supports girls in continuing their education, both through CARE Niger and personal means.

While Oumma acknowledges that her tribe, the Fulani people, typically marry off young girls instead of enrolling them in schools, she disagrees with the tradition. “It will never be too late to be married,” she says. “It is still better to let the girls go to school, learn, have a job before getting married. This even enables the woman to support the household expenses.”

A year ago, when seven young girls were escaping forced marriages, Oumma opened up her home to them and used her personal funds to ensure they continued their schooling. “I did this because it hurts so much myself that I didn’t go to school.”


A man in a face mask with a clipboard speaks to two women in face masks while standing in front of the open door of a house made of woven bamboo.
Photo: CARE

AKM Anisuzzaman, who has been a humanitarian worker for the last 25 years, manages sexual and reproductive health programs for CARE Bangladesh. He is based in Cox’s Bazar, home to the world’s largest refugee camp. Nearly one million Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since 2017 after violence escalated in Myanmar, with most fleeing to Cox’s Bazaar.

Anis says providing sexual and reproductive health services was a challenge during the early days of the pandemic. The CARE Bangladesh team quickly formed outreach teams composed of midwives and volunteers, who now provide “doorstep services” that bring these services directly to the people who need them, while maintaining COVID-19 safety practices.

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“Working on emergency response… makes me feel like anything is possible. My internal realization now is that I can do anything if I wish,” he says.

Balancing work with home life is difficult, Anisuzzaman says. While he lives in a camp within Cox’s Bazaar, his wife and daughter live in Dhaka, nearly 250 miles away. He misses them and calls them every day.


Two men stand in brown water that reaches their knows while four men on a boat look at them.
Photo: CARE

Sadashiv Bapa Ambi (foreground, right), 51, is a boat operator from Ganeshwadi village in Maharashtra, India’s western peninsular region. For the last three decades, Sadashiv has worked to transport people and animals to safety while the region has experienced periodic major floods.

According to Sadashiv people in less populous areas are often overlooked in flood response. This is why he feels called to step in. In 2019 alone, Sadashiv helped save the lives of 2,600 people and 135 animals during floods that impacted areas including Ganeshwadi, Kauteguland, Shershah, and Kanwad.

“Working on emergency response makes me feel like anything is possible.”

This work comes at a personal cost. Sadashiv risks his life, has to eat and sleep on the boat, and spends days at a time away from his family, but he says it’s worth it.

“The real meaning of life is to help people around you,” he says. “When I see people in trouble and [I help] them out… the smile on their faces satisfies me the most.”


A man in protective blue coveralls, hardhat, goggles Dana surgical mask mixes chlorine disinfecting solution outside a COVID-19 quarantine center in a dirt patch in front of a tree in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp.
Photo: CARE

Abdirahman Katsame, 29, mixes chlorine disinfecting solution outside a COVID-19 quarantine center in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp. He is a vector and pest control refugee community worker with CARE, who is helping keep the camp sanitary during the pandemic.

“It gives me so much joy to support my community in preventing diseases by disinfecting public institutions and households,” Abdirahman says, although he says some people look down on him because of his job.

Currently, Abdirahman is helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 by disinfecting a food distribution center and fumigating a primary school, which is a designated quarantine center at the camp.

After wrapping up his workday, Abdirahman goes home to his family, and helps his children with their schoolwork.


A woman sits with a clipboard while conversing with two men.
Photo: CARE

For years, Marie Toto has flown all over the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu to respond to humanitarian emergencies. When a volcano erupted in Ambae island in 2018, Marie was dispatched for two months, distributing food and other lifesaving essentials through her work with CARE.

“People out there in remote communities, they don’t have much access to information or resources so when you have the opportunity, it’s time for you to give more to them. We give our best,” she says.

Marie, 29, is from the island of Ambrym, around 100 miles from the capital, Port Vila, where she lives and works. The insight she has gained through her work has been helpful to her family. She advised her family to stockpile food and firewood, which came in handy after Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu in March 2015.

With the cyclone destroying the homes of many of their neighbors, Marie’s family took in 30 people who survived off stockpiles as they rebuilt their homes. “With that information, I saved my family and our neighbors’ lives.”


A man in surgical mask takes the another person's temperature with an infrared thermometer.
Photo: CARE

Mohamed Abdullahi, left, carries out a temperature check at the Yubbe Health Center in the Sanaag region of Somaliland. Mohamed, who works under the Somaliland Ministry of Health, is a team leader responsible for overseeing all health issues in his village.

Through CARE Somalia, Mohamed and the six other staff members at the health center have received personal protective equipment and training on COVID-19 prevention and response.

Mohamed has used this information to support members of his community who have tested positive for the virus. When the first case reached his village, Mohamed says: “I was shocked, but I realized I could support the sick woman while also protecting myself and the community… Without the PPE we would not have been able to support our communities and save lives.”

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