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IHC makes UAE capital of philanthropic work

posted on 09/04/2014: 2053 views



The International Humanitarian City, IHC, in Dubai, which was established by directive of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to make the UAE and Dubai the capital of humanitarian work, is the world's biggest area of humanitarian organisations today serving both within the country and outside.

"The UAE takes its responsibility in the humanitarian landscape very seriously," says Shaima Al Zarooni, IHC CEO. "Our primary activities involve facilitating emergency relief. Thanks to the collective enabling factors of IHC facilities, the support of both federal and local government authorities, and the continuous efforts of our most active member organisations, aid is being successfully delivered to crisis-hit areas." Al Zarooni says Sheikh Mohammed established the IHC as a permanent economic model that would relieve the financial burden of large-scale aid delivery, from taxes to transport to office and warehouses cost. "This is a very unique contribution of Dubai and the UAE to the humanitarian community, in addition to flexibility and freedom to carry out humanitarian operations using the free-zone status privileges." Since 2011, aid shipments worth approximately Dh1 billion have been dispatched.

Currently, the majority of the aid is to Syria and its neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Since the beginning of 2012, over US$45 million worth of aid has been sent for Syrian victims and refugees. The items sent include clothes, shoes, sleeping mats, tarpaulins, hygiene kits, and nutrition and medical supplies.

"As the crisis in Syria [completes] three years, millions of lives [have been] devastated, and the refugee influx has reached incredible heights, with millions of women displaced and more vulnerable than ever," Al Zarooni told the Khaleej Times daily. "Our members have not stopped aid delivery, both inside Syria and to the neighbouring countries who host large refugee populations." She says it's a great challenge to deliver aid inside Syria.

Aid is also going to African countries like Chad, the Central African Republic, Niger, Congo, Sudan, Mali, and Somalia. Recent aid for the crisis in the Central African Republic from IHC's UN agency member organisations surpassed US$3 million.

During the refugee crisis in Ethiopia in 2012, the IHC donated more than 10,000 articles of clothing in response to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' and the International Olympic Committee's clothing collection project, "Giving is Winning".

Al Zarooni says the time, situation and unforeseen disasters determine where aid will be sent. "For example, towards the end of 2013, over 1,500 tonnes of aid was sent to the Philippines in response to the devastating typhoon. In 2010, the main focus of resources was on Haiti in response to the earthquake. Over US$30 million of aid was sent from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in IHC on behalf of partners and member organisations. The humanitarian organisations operating from the IHC are the ones who decide on the locations and size of response according to the need and the priorities." Among the IHC responses to some of the worst humanitarian crises, Al Zarooni includes the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, the recurring drought in the Horn of Africa, and the civil unrest in Afghanistan and Darfur in western Sudan.

When the UN offices in Kabul and Islamabad came under attack by terrorists, and again during the Arab Spring upheavals, the IHC helped evacuate staff and offered temporary offices so the agencies could continue their work.

The IHC has also brought the spotlight on the humanitarian engagement in Dubai and the UAE. "For the past two years, we have been marking World Humanitarian Day in Dubai, among the humanitarian capitals (New York and Geneva) on August 19th in commemoration of the bravery and sacrifice of humanitarian workers around the world," Al Zarooni continued.

Dubai's strategic geographic location enables aid providers to reach two-third of the world's population within eight hours by air.

Within Dubai, the IHC is strategically located 18km from the new Al Maktoum Airport's cargo facilities and 21km from Jebel Ali Port, the world's largest man-made port and biggest shipping centre between Rotterdam and Singapore. The IHC gives members the ability to move shipments from sea to air in as little as 10 minutes. In addition, a customs corridor between the two further eases the way. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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