16 November 2009
Secretary-General
SG/SM/12608
SAG/427

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, Addressing World Food Programme Staff, Pays Tribute

 

to Colleagues Killed in Pakistan Terrorist Attack

 


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to World Food Programme (WFP) staff in Rome today, 16 November:


Thank you all for being here.  As you know, I am here in Rome for the Food Summit.  But I also came to be with you during this difficult time.  I wanted to thank you, personally, for the work you do and your extraordinary dedication to the world’s people.


When disaster strikes, when famine darkens the land, you are there.  Whether on the frontlines in the world’s emergency zones, or supporting that work from Rome or other offices, you are the very face of the United Nations.  A caring face.  A face of solidarity.  A face that says:  we are here.


The World Food Programme does more than feed people.  It gives them hope.  When people see the WFP banner ‑‑ on trucks, on tents, flying at feeding centres ‑‑ they know the world is there for them.  I know how hard the work is.  I know the sacrifices you make, and your families, too.  So, thank you for your dedication.  Thank you for your commitment and, often, your valour.  You make all of us at the United Nations proud.


We were shocked by the loss of your colleagues last month in Islamabad.  I join you in remembering their service and in paying tribute to their sacrifice:  Botan Ahmed Ali Al-Hayawi, who survived an attack in June and stayed on the job; Farzana Barkat, who was just days away from her twenty-third birthday; Abid Rehman, the soft-spoken professional; Gul Rukh Tahir, the smiling face that greeted every visitor to the WFP; Mohammad Wahab, known by all for his humour and hard work.


They left 11 children without fathers.  Five families were broken, in heart and soul. Four of our WFP staff were wounded, and our thoughts are with them as well.  I welcome our colleagues from Pakistan who are here today to represent the families of the victims:  Rashida Amir, head of the Peshawar sub-office, and Muhammad Tariq, who heads the Finance Unit in Islamabad.  We share your grief and outrage.


This was the single worst attack in the WFP’s history.  Like you, I am saddened and outraged by its senselessness.  As you know only too well, our United Nations family has also suffered another grievous loss in Kabul.  These attacks are more painful because we are targets ‑‑ targets because of the work we do, every day in every corner of the world.  Like our fallen comrades, we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and care for the sick.


This is the WFP in action.  It is the United Nations at work.  That work is done without fanfare or spotlights.  Yet moments like these remind the world just who you are, and what we are about.  I am so proud of you.  I am proud to be your Secretary-General, proud to call you colleagues.


We are lifted by your example, and by the example of those we have lost.  I do not need to recite the facts for you:  the 1 billion people who go hungry every day; the child who dies every five seconds, every day, for lack of enough to eat.  In a world of plenty, in a world with enough food for all, this should be a call to action.  You hear that call, clear as a trumpet.  And you act, thousands of you in dozens of countries.


You save lives at risk to your own.  This is the humanitarian spirit at its very best, and I salute you for it.  We salute Botan, Farzana, Abid, Gul, Wahab.  On behalf of the entire United Nations family, we honour them today and stand with their families in sorrow.


Again, thank you, all, for your commitment and hard work.  Thank you for your bravery and your spirit.  Thank you for making our United Nations the face of the best in humankind.  You have my most profound respect and admiration.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record