Asia and the Pacific: World Humanitarian Day celebrations across the region

6 September, 2012
World Humanitarian Day celebrations in Myanmar. Credit: OCHA
World Humanitarian Day celebrations in Myanmar. Credit: OCHA

The World Humanitarian Day (WHD) 2012 campaign is being hailed as the most successful yet due to its massive social outreach, which resonated in the world’s most disaster-prone region: Asia and the Pacific.

This year’s campaign, which was launched in advance of WHD (19 August), made social media history by sharing more than 1 billion messages of hope, and encouraging people to do something good for someone else under the theme “People Helping People”. 
International superstar Beyoncé and Grammy-winning song writer Diane Warren donated the song, “I Was Here,” to the campaign, encouraging everyone to do something good for someone else. Every year, WHD honors those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service, and those who continue to bring assistance and relief to millions. 
This year’s WHD campaign asked people to mark their good deed on a global interactive map. Thousands of people around the world have now done so, adding their location and a description of their action, and promoting it via social media to inspire others.
“The response has been overwhelming, with six pins being dropped every minute on the map. In the first 24 hours, more than 10,000 people had contributed,” said David Ohana, the WHD Campaign Coordinator. Pins have appeared all across Asia, with strong support in Australia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.
An unexpected source of social media activity was the Chinese-language microblogging site, Weibo, which is a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook and one of the most popular sites in China. More than 160 million people were reached through the UN account on Weibo, and the campaign videos were viewed 300,000 times on three major video-sharing websites in China.
With the help of UN agencies in China, high-profile actors, journalists, moderators, writers and Olympic gold medalists from the Chinese community encouraged their followers to make their voices heard, and more than 60,000 Weibo users supported the campaign by reposting the messages.
"It is truly inspiring to see a simple message like 'People Helping People' resonate globally, and lead to acts of genuine kindness," said Oliver Lacey-Hall, the Head of OCHA’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. 
In addition to the social media campaign, countries across Asia and the Pacific hosted events to commemorate the day. In Myanmar, more than 170 representatives from national and international non-governmental organizations, UN agencies and the Government commemorated the day with a photo exhibition of humanitarian work in the country and a performance by a youth choir.
In Sri Lanka, the UN Secretary-General’s message was read in English, Tamil and Sinhala at an event commemorating humanitarian workers who lost their lives while helping the people of Sri Lanka. One OCHA staff member organised food deliveries to ten families in Colombo Fort through her local Rotary Club as a way of making a difference in her community.
Bangladesh commemorated the day on 29 August with a theatre performance organised for schools in Faridpur. In Thailand, the World Humanitarian Day music video was shown in cinemas.
There were also numerous events held in Australia, including a lunch for the homeless people hosted by the UN Association of Australia in Adelaide. They also organised debates in Melbourne and the National Parliament in Canberra, and the video was shown in public spaces in several cities.
In Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji in the Pacific, a number of debates and panel discussions on television and radio helped to further raise awareness of the Day.
Reporting by OCHA Asia and the Pacific

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