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UAE's humanitarian aid: two-fold philosophy and a gift to the world

posted on 22/06/2013: 2485 views

Since the federation of the United Arab Emirates was established in 1971, it has shown itself to be a generous donor of humanitarian assistance and of development aid for other countries both within the region and around the world.

The philosophy behind this is two-fold: first, it is dictated by a belief that helping those in need is a primary duty; and second, that part of the country's wealth from oil and gas should be devoted to assisting other countries and individuals that are less fortunate.

According to the OECD, the UAE was the sixteenth largest donor in 2012, measured by the ratio of aid to the size of the economy, climbing from twenty-sixth place in 2010.

In recognition of the importance of such assistance, a new ministry was formed in March 2013 to coordinate all the development and humanitarian efforts undertaken by the UAE.

The new Ministry of Development and International Cooperation, which incorporates the existing Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid, is headed by Sheikha Lubna al Qasimi, who in recent years had also served as economy and then foreign trade minister.

Sheikha Lubna's new task is to boost the role of the UAE as a major donor and a key player in global human development. This includes setting a general policy for UAE development and international aid, suggesting areas of priority development, evaluating the impact of UAE foreign aid programmes and coordinating with local and international organisations in the relief and humanitarian aid fields.

Assistance is provided through a range of instruments. Much of the aid is delivered directly by the Government. For example, it spent Dh300 million on Mrajeeb Al Fhood, a camp the nation built for Syrian refugees in Jordan able to house 25,000 refugees. In total, the UAE has pledged more than Dh1.1 billion in aid to Syrian refugees. As part of its humanitarian aid policy, the UAE has contributed to building hospitals and townships as well as assisting in relief operations in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

In addition, the UAE has made major contributions, both directly and through regional agencies and international organisations aimed at alleviating suffering in countries whose populations have been affected by natural disasters, conflict, epidemics of disease, illiteracy and poverty.

Besides assistance directly from Government, humanitarian assistance and development aid is also provided by a wide range of other organisations, such as the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), the Red Crescent Authority (RCA), the Zayed Foundation for Charitable and Humanitarian Aid, the Khalifa bin Zayed Foundation, the Sheikha Fatima bin Mubarak Fund for Refugee Women, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and the Sharjah Charity Association and Humanitarian Foundation provide billions of dollars to support disaster- and drought-stricken areas. In addition, a number of private humanitarian efforts have also been undertaken.

Abu Dhabi Fund for Development: One of the leading development grant agencies is the ADFD, which was established in 1971 to extend assistance to Arab, Islamic and friendly developing countries facing difficulties, challenges and economic development problems. The main activity of the Fund is to provide economic assistance in the form of loans on concessionary terms, grants or contributions to project capital.

The Fund particularly strives to help achieve sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty by providing financial aid, forging partnerships in the public and private sectors, and adopting international best practices to ensure aid effectiveness. In 2012, a large number of projects focused on supporting infrastructure in low-income African countries.

Since its foundation, the ADFD has provided more than Dh14.9 billion to 325 projects in 59 beneficiary countries. Total loans, grants and investments, including those extended by the Abu Dhabi government but managed by the ADFD, amount to Dh35.3 billion.

Red Crescent Authority: The RCA, established in 1983, continues to give impetus to humanitarian efforts under the stewardship of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in Abu Dhabi's Al Gharbia (Western Region).

The RCA has funded and implemented hundreds of charity projects in countries throughout Africa and Asia, apart from a number of projects to help the Palestinian people. Some of its most effective activities include providing drinking water in countries hit by drought and desertification, as well as equipping hospitals in remote areas of underprivileged countries and distributing relief material for flood victims. It has also offered assistance to other countries affected by natural disasters, including the United States, following the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

These efforts have given the RCA the distinction of being one of the top ten member organisations of the International Committee of the Red Cross in terms of the amount of relief assistance provided.

Providing aid for Palestinians is a particular focus for the RCA, which has offered a total of Dh900 million to fund humanitarian, health and educational projects in Palestine. The RCA responded to the appeal of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to support Palestinian refugees caught up in the conflict in Syria, donating $500,000 in 2013 for food and hygiene kits for displaced Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA commissioner-general Filippo Grandi said: We are grateful to our consistent partner, the UAE Red Crescent Authority, for this donation. It will be of very direct benefit to Palestinian refugees caught up in the Syrian maelstrom. We calculate that about half of the more than 500,000 Palestinians in Syria have had to move from their houses. That is a frightening statistic.' In April 2013 the Higher Committee of Foreign Aid at the RCA allocated Dh4 million to carry out development projects in a number of countries, including Palestine, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Jordan, Pakistan, Senegal, Bosnia, Uganda, Benin, Thailand and Chad, in addition to Ghana, Lebanon, Libya and Mauritania. The assistance will cover health, education and social services sectors in addition to the provision of water supplies in areas of shortage.

Other Aid Efforts: The UAE Government also participates in a number of other multilateral aid-giving institutions, including the International Development Agency, the OPEC Fund for International Development, the Arab Gulf Fund for the United Nations, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund and the Islamic Development Bank. In recent years, however, the emphasis has been on humanitarian assistance for those affected by natural disasters, conflict and poverty.

Overall, during the last three-and-a-half decades, the UAE has contributed more than Dh255 billion in loans, grants and assistance for development projects in nearly 100 countries around the world, as well as support for the programmes of international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and specialised agencies of the United Nations.

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Establishment: Launched in 1997 to promote charity and humanitarian work and help the underprivileged worldwide, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Establishment has delivered the UAE's generous humanitarian and development aid to over 25 countries including Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran , Kosovo, Turkey, Madagascar, Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia, the Philippines, Indonesia and others. The foundation also actively contributes towards developing other communities outside the UAE by working to improve their educational, health and economic conditions.

In 2012, the Foundation announced plans worth around Dh13 million to build four schools for boys and girls and two healthcare centres in Iraqi cities and towns. All these facilities were named after the UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Also in 2012, in cooperation with the Dubai-based Beit Al Khair Society, the Foundation launched the Mohammed bin Rashid Village in Sri Lanka. The 45-house compound was built for the displaced in Kattankudy town which bore the brunt of floods in 2011.

In 2011, the Foundation spent Dh38.2 million on aid operations in 29 countries including Somalia, Libya, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Kenya, in addition to emergency food assistance to other Horn of Africa countries.

In 2010, it spend Dh19 million on relief operations, building schools, mosques, orphanages, housing units and other facilities in Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Somalia, Thailand, Sudan, Cambodia, Senegal, Haiti and other countries.

Dubai Cares: Dubai Cares is a philanthropic organization working to improve children's access to quality primary education in developing countries. Launched in September 2007 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, Dubai Cares expresses the UAE's commitment to achieving, by 2015, United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UN MDG) 2 and 3 - namely, to guarantee universal primary education and to promote gender equality, respectively. Dubai Cares is also helping to forge a global partnership for development, as represented by UN MDG 8.

Dubai Cares' programs are designed to reduce, ideally remove, obstacles that prevent children across the developing world from accessing quality primary education. Comprehensive in scope, the philanthropic organization's primary education programs integrate four key components: School Infrastructure; School Health '&' Nutrition; Water, Sanitation '&' Hygiene (WASH) in Schools; and Quality of Education.

Since its launch, Dubai Cares has partnered with international aid agencies, private foundations and NGOs including American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, buildOn, Care International, The End Fund, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Global Network, M?decins Sans Frontiers, Microsoft, Oxfam, Partnership for Child Development, Plan International, Room to Read, Save the Children, Scholastic, Teri Press, UNICEF, UNRWA, WaterAid and World Food Program.

To date, Dubai Cares has implemented comprehensive primary education programs in 28 countries including Angola, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Ghana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Laos, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sir Lanka, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Yemen, Zambia and with Palestinian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.

Supported by 40 governmental, corporate and individual donors, Dubai Cares, is making a difference in the lives of children and their communities. In the last five years, to August 2012, Dubai Cares: - Reached more than 7 million children in 28 developing countries.

- Built and renovated more than 20 schools and 1,500 classrooms in Bangladesh.

- Provided more than 1,000 water wells and potable water sources and healthcare facilities for more than 3200 schools in Mali and Indonesia.

- Provided nutritious food everyday to more than 320,000 children in schools in Ghana alone.

- Kept more than 1.5 million children free from intestinal worms through its de-worming activities.

- Distributed over 2 million books written in local languages.

- Established over 6,600 Parent-Teacher Associations - Trained thousands of male and female teachers to improve education, in - Bangladesh in particular.

By the end of 2011, Dubai Cares carried out projects worth more than Dh85 million in more than 22 countries.

In 2013, it has offered Dh79.3 million in funding to provide pure water, sewage and hygienic services for schools in Mali, Sierra Leon and Indonesia.

Noor Dubai: In September 2008, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched a new initiative, under the name 'Noor Dubai'.

Noor Dubai started as an international charitable initiative for the prevention and treatment of blindness and low vision. It provided therapeutic, preventative and educational programs to treat and prevent blindness and visual impairment in developing countries on a regional and international scale.

In its first year and following the success achieved of reaching out to over 5.8 million individuals worldwide, a decree was passed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, launching the Noor Dubai Foundation a non-governmental, non-for-profit organization, aiming to eliminate all forms of preventable blindness globally.

Since its launch in 2008, Noor Dubai has restored the vision of more than 6 million people in Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Chad, Niger, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Mali, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

In 2012, H.H Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and his wife Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Women Establishment, launched an initiative to set up camps in Togo, Yemen, Sri Lanka, and finally Pakistan. The camps examined and treated 22579 individuals with visual impairment, provided surgeries to more than 1785 patients, and distributed over 5000 medical eye-glasses In December 2009, the charity started to reach out to targeted visually-impaired and blind people overseas. In partnership with the Al Basar International, a NGO focused on blindness prevention. Together, they set up ten camps in Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Chad and Niger, and two in Bangladesh and Ethiopia to screen more than 7,000 people and conduct around 5000 sight-saving surgeries at each camp up to the end of 2012.

In 2009, the UAE-based charity partnered with the Lions Club International Foundation, the world's largest volunteer service organization, to treat villagers with river blindness in Mali, Uganda, Cameroon and Ethiopia. The effort was aimed at helping the World Health Organization (WHO) in achieving its goals outlined in VISION 2020: the Right to Sight' to eliminate the disease in the said countries.

Nabadat (heatbeats) Initiative: The Nabadat initiative was launched in 2007 by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Establishment to provide free heart surgeries for all children, in the UAE and overseas, with congenital disease. The initiative is administered in collaboration with Dubai Health Authority (DHA) The initiative reached out to more than 320,000 children in the UAE and 13 other countries An Italian team of surgeons which visits Dubai four times every year has conducted the surgeries on the children. - Emirates News Agency, WAM


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