Humanitarian aid is material and logistic assistance to people who need help. It is usually short-term help until the long-term help by the government and other institutions replaces it. Among the people in need are the homeless, refugees, and victims of natural disasters, wars, and famines. Humanitarian relief efforts are provided for humanitarian purposes and include natural disasters and man-made disasters. The primary objective of humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity. It may, therefore, be distinguished from development aid, which seeks to address the underlying socioeconomic factors which may have led to a crisis or emergency. There is a debate on linking humanitarian aid and development efforts, which was reinforced by the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. However, the conflation is viewed critically by practitioners.
Humanitarian aid is seen as "a fundamental expression of the universal value of solidarity between people and a moral imperative". Humanitarian aid can come from either local or international communities. In reaching out to international communities, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) of the United Nations (UN) is responsible for coordination responses to emergencies. It taps to the various members of Inter-Agency Standing Committee, whose members are responsible for providing emergency relief. The four UN entities that have primary roles in delivering humanitarian aid are United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
The International Committee of the Red Cross understands humanitarian relief as a norm in both international and non-international armed conflicts, and countries or war parties that prevent humanitarian relief are generally widely criticized. According to The Overseas Development Institute, a London-based research establishment, whose findings were released in April 2009 in the paper "Providing aid in insecure environments: 2009 Update", the most lethal year for aid providers in the history of humanitarianism was 2008, in which 122 aid workers were murdered and 260 assaulted. The countries deemed least safe were Somalia and Afghanistan. In 2014, Humanitarian Outcomes reported that the countries with the highest incidents were: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Kenya.