More than Dh18 million has been raised for Syrian refugees on the first day of a fundraising drive.
The campaign, Our Hearts are with the Syrian People, was launched to help those struggling to survive in camps as winter storms batter parts of the Middle East.
The initiative, created by the Emirates Red Crescent after a directive from the President, Sheikh Khalifa, raised Dh18.1m on Thursday, organisers said.
Donations are flowing in from the public and corporate donors.
Funds should be substantially boosted over the weekend thanks to a two-day telethon on Abu Dhabi TV, which is owned by Abu Dhabi Media Company, which publishes The National.
The programme will run on Friday from 2pm to 8pm, then on Saturday from 2pm to 4pm, with live coverage from refugee camps in Jordan and fundraising stations across the UAE.
Celebrities from the Arabian Gulf and Syria will lend their support, including an Emirati musician, Hussain Al Jasmi.
Experts and journalists will be speaking on the plight of the Syrian refugees, while a psychologist will discuss the effects of cold on their mental health.
Red Crescent workers will address the Government’s role in supporting the refugees, while religious leaders are expected to talk about the moral responsibilities of donating to support people in dire circumstances.
The telethon’s organiser, Saeed Al Sheaibi, a news presenter at Abu Dhabi TV, said local media had mobilised itself behind the Syrian refugees campaign.
“The media plays a big and important role in society – to show the reality of the suffering of the people there, by showing them videos and interviews, and to show them that your brothers in humanity are suffering,” he said.
He hoped the campaign would convince people that it was not only the Government’s responsibiliy to help the refugees.
Apart from the telethon, other TV channels and radio stations have been regularly broadcasting numbers residents can text to donate money to the campaign.
Emirates FM and Quran Kareem Radio, both part of Abu Dhabi Media Company, broadcast programmes on Thursday afternoon to spread word about the telethon.
Mohammed Ateeq Al Falahi, secretary general of the Red Crescent, praised residents for their rapid response to the campaign.
He called on everyone to take part in the humanitarian efforts for the next two days.
The fundraising efforts were also advocated by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai.
“This campaign reflects His Highness the President’s sensitivity as a human being and the authenticity and generosity of the Emirati people,” he said, reported the state news agency Wam
“We have seen harsh photos in recent days of Syrian refugees in countries neighbouring Syria following the blizzard. It was harrowing to see images of their children in the snow and their tents covered in white.”
Sheikh Hamdan believes the people of the UAE will be driven by honour and benevolence to respond and to help their “brothers in the Sham region”.
“We call upon all institutions, companies and capable individuals to participate in this campaign and contribute to its success in a manner that befits the UAE’s standing,” he said.
On Thursday, Dh1m had been raised through an SMS campaign, while Dh10m had been given by the Dubai Islamic Bank Humanitarian Foundation.
Other notable amounts included Dh3.6m from Dar Al Ber Society, Dh1m each from Al Ansari Exchange and Al Hilal Bank, and Dh1.5m from businessman Khalifa Al Naboodah.
The civil war in Syria has forced more than 2.3 million people to leave their homes since March 2011. About 800,000 refugees are now in Lebanon, with a further 500,000 in Jordan.
The extreme weather has increased the urgency among international aid organisations to provide more relief to refugees, thousands of whom live in tent camps with limited supplies.
People can donate by visiting the Red Crescent website www.rcuae.ae or via SMS.
Du subscribers can donate Dh10 by sending an SMS to 7110, Dh50 to 7150, Dh100 to 7100 and Dh200 to 7200. Etisalat users can donate Dh10 with an SMS to 4010, Dh50 to 7050, Dh100 to 7100 and Dh200 to 7200.
They can also hand over money and goods at collection stations at the Dubai Mall, Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi and Mega Mall in Sharjah.