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A city that cares

posted on 02/12/2006: 1500 views

Dubai is being touted as the new humanitarian hub due to its strategic location to deal with conflict and disaster hotspots in the region.

July 12 to August 14, 2006, will long be remembered as the tragic period that saw a return of war to Lebanon. With close to 1,200 Lebanese dead, 5,000 injured, 30,000 homes destroyed and one million people displaced (according to the Lebanese government's Higher Relief Council), the sheer size of the humanitarian disaster necessitated a massive international response.

However, the period will also be remembered as one of action on the part of people in the UAE, who came together to do their part for the mounting humanitarian needs of the Lebanese people.

Thousands of tonnes of aid and millions of dirhams were raised including Dh54 million from a ten-hour telethon broadcast from Dubai; volunteers from all walks of life across the UAE mobilised; and planes, trucks and ships loaded with donations were transported to the besieged country.

Mohammad Al Zarouni, manager of the Dubai branch of the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA), spent time in Lebanon where the organisation has ongoing projects. "We are continuing our assistance to the people of Lebanon by rebuilding the infrastructure including hospitals," says Al Zarouni.

As one of the primary organisations mandated to collect and distribute aid in the UAE, the total value of the RCA's humanitarian projects to date exceeds Dh1.5 billion. "We are now looking towards rebuilding the country. So we need people to maintain their support for the crisis. Even donating one dirham can make a difference," he says.

This revelation is nothing new to humanitarian workers in the UAE and Lebanon was not the first crisis in which the country has played a key humanitarian role.

For the past several years, Dubai in particular, has become an increasingly important strategic location for the international humanitarian community. Frequently, the UAE convoys are among the first to arrive to crisis areas.

"Whenever there is a disaster, we find that people in the UAE are willing to contribute at least a small amount even if they don't have much," says Ebrahim Bu Melha, Deputy Chairman of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation. "We have seen how people have reacted to crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and the Asian tsunami."

With more UN agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) opting to base operations here and international NGOs catching on, Dubai is being touted as the new regional humanitarian hub, strategically located to deal with many of the region's conflict and disaster hotspots.

It was this realisation that led to the creation of Dubai Aid and Humanitarian City. According to the humanitarian body, Dubai is within four hours flying time of 60 per cent of the disasters that occurred in 2005 - a year that saw unprecedented number of humanitarian operations.

With the UAE's mechanism for the delivery of humanitarian aid becoming ever streamlined, the war in Lebanon - the latest international crisis - tested both the country's capacity for giving as well as the ever-evolving humanitarian system. (Gulf News)


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