People across the Emirates have been donating money, medicines, food and other items to help Palestinians get through the Israeli onslaught.
Outpouring of aid for Palestinians
The people of the UAE have been making significant efforts over the past week to help relieve some of the suffering of Palestinians currently living under the barrage of Israeli attacks. Since the start of the onslaught on Dec 27, some 491 Palestinians, including women and children, have been killed and a further 2,400 injured, according to a report released by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at the weekend. Two hundred Palestinians died on the first day of attacks, the largest number of Palestinians killed by Israelis in a single day since the 1967 War. The Palestinian community based in the UAE has teamed up with expatriates in the region to set up ad hoc groups to offer help and support - be it through silent vigils, the setting up of tents to collect donations, or simply wearing T-shirts with slogans to increase awareness. The UN Development Programme and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East have started delivering relief supplies to the Gaza Strip. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, has instructed the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity Foundation to provide and distribute the humanitarian assistance through the two UN agencies. The assistance includes medical and food supplies. Tents set up in Abu Dhabi by the Red Crescent Authority have been busy, with large numbers of people donating what they can. Piles of items were left outside the tents yesterday - including clothes, mattresses and toys - as they remained closed because of the national holiday. Posters with bank account details for those wanting to make monetary donations covered the tents. A 28-year-old Estonian woman, who chose to be identified as Um Khalifa, said she wanted to know more about when and how the donations would get to needy Palestinians. "We want to know what else we can do," she said. A few people who brought medicine did not know where to place them. "There are urgent things like medicine and sugar, where do we put them," she added. Khulood al Nuaimi, a Red Crescent helpline operator, said details about donation deliveries would be available when the tent reopened today. The Red Crescent has already given aid worth Dh8 million (US$2.2m). There are no plans at the moment to send out blood supplies. Dr Amin al Amiri, from the Ministry of Health, said: "There has been no request from outside and no order from our Government. The close countries are better to support them with blood. It's the best and fastest way." Abdul Rahman al Tenaiji, head of media relations for the Red Crescent, added: "The situation now is that food is more important than blood." Others are using their expertise to help. Aramex, the delivery company, has launched its own campaign to transport aid and foodstuff by setting up collection points around Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. "Aramex has always been at the forefront of helping communities; we did it during the Lebanon 2006 war, during the Pakistan earthquake, the tsunami, and the Iran earthquake," said Hussein Hachem, chief executive of Aramex in the Gulf. "We have communicated with the UN and received a list of what people need, such as medicines, canned goods, blankets and things that will allow them to pass through the winter." The company has already collected 20 tonnes in two days. "There has been an amazing response from across the Emirates; from both Arabs and westerners." The company is collecting the donations and shipping them to Jordan. From there the Hashemite Relief Agency takes them to the Palestinian Territories and hands them over to the UN. He called on businesses to do their bit. "So far, all initiatives have been personal and overwhelming but it would help a lot if corporates also got involved," he said. Essential materials include first aid kits, medical emergency supplies, chronic illness medication, non-perishable foods, new clothes, tents and blankets. The collection points are located in Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, Deira City Centre, Sharjah City Centre and Ajman City Centre. The campaign will run until next Sunday. According to the OCHA report, the lack of power and electricity in Gaza is forcing hospitals to operate with generators, and food distribution has been erratic. Some UAE residents have taken it upon themselves to organise fund-raising events. On New Year's Day, two Palestinians set out to walk the 120 kilometres from Dubai to Hatta and back to raise money. Rabea Ataya and Salim Sahyoun called their effort Hatta Matta (Until When). "I do not know if I will change anything but this is a good enough start," said Mr Ataya. "I believe this is an opportunity to dedicate a part of my life to the Palestinian cause... and to appreciate the freedom that I have." The walk raised Dh294,000. Others felt their aim was to raise more awareness on the issue. Silence For Gaza, a Dubai-based group, quickly assembled on Facebook to mobilise people and keep them up to date on events. They held their first vigil last week. Around 300 people dressed in black gathered at Jumeirah Beach Residence and sat cross-legged with a candle in one hand and a letter in the other, spelling out the words "Silence for Gaza". The two-hour vigil was held in silence to remember the dead. * With additional reporting by WAM
There are a number of places in the UAE where people can make donations, in monetary or humanitarian aid, to help the Palestinians in Gaza. The Red Crescent Authority has set up bank accounts people can transfer money into. They are: Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank: 20000417 Dubai Islamic Bank: 003520534675401 Sharjah Islamic Bank: 0060445518007 Emirates Islamic Bank: 007167969006 National Bank of Abu Dhabi: 0155189038 The Red Crescent Authority has set up tents to accept donations at the corner of Corniche Road and Sultan Bin Zayed (32nd) Street in Abu Dhabi. The Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF) will be collecting at this week's screenings of Journey to Mecca in Abu Dhabi. The movie will be shown once a day in both Arabic and English at the Emirates Palace hotel West Park from Wednesday to Friday. Money collected at the screenings will be exclusively for PCRF's missions in Gaza. Aramex has collection points in: Mall of the Emirates (Dubai), Deira City Centre (Dubai), Sharjah City Centre (Sharjah), and Ajman City Centre (Ajman). Donations needed include: first aid kits, medical emergency supplies, chronic illness medications, personal hygiene products, non-perishable foods, new clothes, tents and blankets. Please ensure the validity date is at least six months for food and at least one year for medicine. Donations in the UAE are accepted until next Sunday. * Additional reporting from -Melanie Swan