Over the past three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed unprecedented challenges in our societies from the general disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on disadvantaged groups laying bear inequities to the specific restrictions on face-to-face interactions. As some enter a staggered opening of their societies, others remain with restrictions in place. The role of essential workers and local support networks, which keep societies running and help those most in need, is one critical component throughout the different phases of the pandemic that, for a time, was recognised.
As time moves on, the efforts of essential workers and local support networks exposing themselves to the unknown impacts of the pandemic for benefit of the wider com-munity will fade. This month we mark World Humanitarian Day on 19th August to recognise humanitarian workers around the world. It offers us a day to remember and reflect on the efforts of the essential workers and local support net-works during the pandemic. The theme for 2022 ‘It takes a village’ recognises the collective efforts of people around the world working to support those most in need.
They are the affected people them-selves, family members, friends and neighbours who are the first responders. Often these efforts fall outside the 24-hour news cycle and cacophony of voices on social media. They are what have become known as everyday humanitarians.
The idea of everyday humanitarians rejects the dominant reliance on the legal foundations of the 1864 Ge-neva Conventions’ recognition in international law of the humanitarian principles to provide the laws of war. It rather sees it as one of many ways to understand global humanitarianism. It is a movement away from the recent dominant history of humanitarianism as shaped by international non-governmental organisations and self – identified ’humanitarian’ actors to-wards one that appreciates the permutations and nuances of what happens in people’s daily lives when their friends, family and neighbours need help.
These human connections are not relegated to those in immediate physical surroundings as a quaint view of life in another time. These connections span across physical and digital domains to include not only your next-door neighbours but also those relationships built and maintained in virtual spaces. These relationships have ensured that human bonds re-main strong despite the physical distances between them. It has facilitated the increasing importance of sending digital money to family in need elsewhere in the world through money transfer organisations. These efforts remain outside of the legalistic and formalised humanitarian system where financial transactions are monitored, evaluated, and analysed but no less important in supporting those family, friends, and neighbours during their times of need.
As we mark the 19th World Humanitarian Day in 2022, let us recognise the efforts made by those in formal humanitarian organisations and those everyday humanitarians whose support are mutually reinforcing. At the same time, we should recognise that these efforts are disproportionately focused on those that have the well-oiled, media-driven, and commercially sound campaigns generating funds from high profiled individuals and corporations. We should recognise the everyday humanitarians and the work they do outside this formalised humanitarian system. Only then will we reflect on the efforts of all humanitarian workers worldwide and understand the different human connections that exist in the world today.