x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Libya victims receive food, medicine from UAE entrepreneur

An Emirati entrepreneur has leapt into action to mobilise food and medical supplies for refugees on the border of Libya and Egypt.

Mubarak Abdullatif offloads food supplies at Salloum, on the border of Libya and Egypt. Courtesy of Mubarak Abdullatif
Mubarak Abdullatif offloads food supplies at Salloum, on the border of Libya and Egypt. Courtesy of Mubarak Abdullatif

DUBAI // While others watched the uprising in Libya with concern, Mubarak Abdullatif leapt into action.

The Dubai-based Emirati entrepreneur went to his family and friends last week asking for donations to help refugees and victims of the violence. By Wednesday, he had raised Dh100,000. The following day he was in Alexandria, Egypt, buying food and medical supplies.

On Friday, he was passing out food to 2,000 people at the border post of Salloum, located between Egypt and Libya. Back in Dubai since Saturday, he is making more plans to deliver medical supplies to Benghazi as soon as possible.

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Mr Abdullatif, 31, who joined protesters calling for the removal of the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Cairo's Tahrir Square, spoke about the motivation behind his involvement in Libya.

"There are few times in our lives when the events around us are so important and have such far-reaching consequences that it is important for us to participate," he said. "Even by contributing a little bit, we can have a huge effect."

Many of the refugees at Salloum are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Chad, Sudan and Nigeria. UN agencies and some international charities who were operating a joint feeding centre had just run out of supplies when he arrived, he said. "They did not know when their next supply was coming from," he said. "The timing was perfect."

His lorry was loaded with 6,000 units each of antibacterial soap, canned tuna, bread, cheese, fruit juice, milk, water, Arabic sweets and oranges. Some of the supplies were given on the spot to people and the rest was used to replenish the feeding centre.

On the same day, a second lorry of medical supplies reached Benghazi, where there has been heavy fighting for days.

Mr Abdullatif has helped with previous relief efforts - in Indonesia and Yemen - and built up contacts within humanitarian agencies such as the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UAE Red Crescent Society, and Life, a British charity, which helped his Libyan initiative. They can provide valuable information about the situation on the ground so he can supply what is most needed.

"No matter what you do, the relief is a good thing," he said. "But you want to avoid duplicating other people's efforts."

Mr Abdullatif respects the work of large humanitarian organisations, but said their response time can be slowed as they face more bureaucratic hurdles.

"As an individual, I can help people on the spot," he said.

To offer help to Mr Abdullatif's efforts, e-mail mubarak_abdullatif@hotmail.com

vtodorova@thenational.ae