A charity telethon is aiming to raise urgent aid for Syrian refugees this weekend.
The programme is part of a huge fundraising drive by the Emirates Red Crescent as those displaced by the civil war endure freezing conditions and hunger after snowstorms blanketed parts of the Middle East.
There will also be cash collections at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi, the Dubai Mall and Sharjah’s Mega Mall.
The campaign, Our Hearts Are With the Syrian People, was launched as part of a directive from the President, Sheikh Khalifa.
The details were announced by Hamdan Musallam Al Mazrouei, chairman of the Red Crescent, at the charity’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Mr Al Mazrouei, who was at times overwhelmed with emotion as he spoke, urged people to give as much as they could, saying in the past people had only given the “bare minimum” to refugees.
“We receive these messages to donate Dh100 each. What’s Dh100? Do any of you buy shoes for less than Dh100?” he asked.
He emphasised that everyone had a responsibility for those suffering.
“We have dealt with crises, disasters and catastrophic situations in the past, but when a campaign deals with innocent children who have no idea what is going on in the world around them, one has only to think what he or she would feel if they were found in similar circusmtances as children,” he said.
“What crime did those children commit to deserve such a fate?”
The campaign has already received an early donation of Dh10 million from Dubai Islamic Bank, Mr Al Mazrouei said.
The Red Crescent said the funds would mainly go to refugees in the most accessible areas, such as camps in Jordan and Lebanon.
Mr Al Mazrouei said the Red Crescent hoped to deliver the aid to the refugees as quickly as possible after the campaign ended.
The charity announced in September that it had provided more than Dh65 million in aid, including food and clothing, to Syrian refugees since January last year.
Most of the funds were used in Jordan, home to Zaatari, the largest refugee camp for Syrians. Other Syrians have fled mostly to Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.
But the extreme weather that hit Syria and other parts of the region last week – with snow reaching as far south as Cairo – has brought a new sense of urgency to aid organisations trying to alleviate the refugees’ suffering.
The United Nations estimates that 2.3 million Syrians have become refugees since the conflict began in March 2011. Millions of others have been displaced from their homes but remain inside Syria.
In Lebanon, more than 120,000 people live in tents, according to the UN, and others have only makeshift accomodations, with limited access to supplies such as blankets and fuel.
The United Nations has increased efforts to provide aid, appealing on Monday for US$6.5 billion worth of donations – the largest amount requested for a single humanitarian emergency.
“We’re facing a terrifying situation here where, by the end of 2014, substantially more of the population of Syria could be displaced or in need of humanitarian help than not,” said the UN high commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres.
“This goes beyond anything we have seen in many, many years, and makes the need for a political solution all the greater.”
The two-day telethon will be on Abu Dhabi TV – owned by Abu Dhabi Media, owner of The National – on Friday from 2pm to 8pm, then on Saturday from 2pm to 4pm.
To donate money to Emirates Red Crescent, visit www.rcuae.ae/online_donation.aspx.