We have been inundated with images of desperate migrants at Calais and frustrated holidaymakers and lorry drivers at Dover. Europe is experiencing a refugee crisis. The Syrian boat people are just the tip of the global humanitarian iceberg.
The world is confronted by an unprecedented number of crises. Over 58 million people are affected by conflict. We receive daily reminders of the horrors in Syria and Libya. But there are also the forgotten conflicts in Central African Republic, Sudan, Burundi and even Ukraine.
The Ebola crisis in West Africa killed over 11,000 people. Many children have been orphaned and economies have been ruined as a result. It will take Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea years to recover. This has shown us that the global humanitarian system is not set up to deal with health crises of this scale.
Then there are the crises we cannot predict. The devastating earthquake in Nepal, which shook the lives of almost 8 million, leaving more than 2 million homeless. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines where, two years on, communities are still recovering. And almost 6 years on, Haiti is still rebuilding after the earthquake.
Food crises are the silent crises which affect millions. Experts are predicting an impending worst food security crisis in Southern Africa after droughts and flooding. An estimated 2.8 million Malawians will require food relief. And extreme weather and conflict are affecting harvest in places like Yemen and Iraq. This will only cause more suffering as winter approaches.
On World Humanitarian Day, we recognise and celebrate the invaluable contribution that organisations and aid workers make to alleviate suffering in all these crises.
The Red Cross has become a global symbol of humanitarian support. Many brave men and women, motivated by altruism and compassion put their lives on the line – the doctors who fought Ebola in Sierra Leone, the engineers building back after disaster, and the volunteers delivering essential food supplies. Sometime these people make the ultimate sacrifice.
Yesterday a memorial service was held in Westminster Abbey to honour those who have died in humanitarian service. Never before has it been so dangerous to be an aid worker. ISIS have deliberately targeted people like Alan Henning and David Haines, whose deaths shocked the world.
In May next year the world will meet in Istanbul for the World Humanitarian Summit. This Summit will look at how to improve humanitarian response. The scale of the challenge is significant. Last year, the world spent US$25.4 billion, a new record level.
The UK Government has been a generous humanitarian funder. However, this cannot be at the expense of providing leadership and active engagement with the humanitarian challenge and the United Nations institutions that respond to these challenges. The UK Government must step up to the plate and ensure that we have a humanitarian system fit for the human, social, environmental, health and emergency challenges of a new century.