x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Pakistan calls, UAE answers

Pakistan is the UAE's largest aid beneficiary, with Dh11.01bn spent on assistance, infrastructure and development.

Poverty, conflict, floods and earthquakes have made Pakistan a prime target for international relief efforts. The UAE has consistently responded to the country's need for aid - indeed, no other nation receives more money from the Emirates than Pakistan does.

Over 40 years, the UAE and Pakistan have continued to develop stronger and closer ties. This may explain why Pakistan is the single largest beneficiary of UAE development and emergency aid.

The money has been used to rebuild schools and create towns in earthquake-hit areas of the country. It has also provided shelter and emergency supplies during devastating floods.

"The relationship between our two countries has been strong since the time of Sheikh Zayed, and remains so today with Sheikh Khalifa," said Jamil Ahmed Khan, Pakistan's ambassador to the UAE.

"Pakistan is a major recipient of the generosity from the UAE, and we are hugely grateful for the help given to us by the Emirates," Mr Khan said.

He said the UAE had been among the first countries to provide helicopters and emergency after floods devastated large swathes of Sindh and Balochistan provinces last summer.

"The aid that was provided by the UAE helped to save tens of thousands of lives in the aftermath of the disaster," he said.

Over the years, funding has gone into building schools and bridges in the Swat valley.

"In Mansehra, there has been huge investment with a number of hospitals as well as schools and other infrastructure like new roads," Mr Khan said. "Over the years this funding has gone to help change and improve the lives of many thousands of people."

Mansehra, in the country's north, had been devastated by an earthquake in 2005 with almost all its buildings destroyed.

In response, the UAE funded the creation of Khalifa City, including 210 houses, two separate schools for boys and girls, a clinic and a mosque, at an estimated cost of Dh12 million.

Mr Khan said UAE aid had been used to support dozens of projects in the past, and was currently funding 24 initiatives.

According to the UAE's Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid (Ocfa), the assistance given to Pakistan has increased from Dh65.8m in 2006 to Dh310m in 2010, with a peak of Dh607m in 2009.

Most of the money went to humanitarian aid.

After severe flooding in Pakistan in 2010, aid was urgently needed for both immediate food, medicine and shelter, as well as long-term projects to rebuild roads and buildings.

"The floods killed more than 1,700 people, damaged or destroyed an estimated 1.7m homes, and caused an estimated $10bn [Dh36.7bn] of damage, submerging roads, sweeping away bridges, and destroying many schools and hospitals," said Ocfa's UAE Foreign Aid Report 2010.

"The UAE responded massively to this crisis. Out of a total Dh 310.7m disbursed to Pakistan in 2010, Dh 258.4m was spent on humanitarian assistance, with the largest tranche - Dh 211.4m - coming from the UAE Government."

Support was also provided by the UAE Armed Forces, which offered helicopters and personnel to evacuate flood victims and distribute food and supplies. Other funding came from the UAE Red Crescent Authority and the Khalifa Foundation, with Dh30.9m and Dh15m respectively.

The Khalifa Foundation also donated Dh44.7m towards charitable projects during Ramadan, and social welfare programmes.

"The Government, Dubai Cares and the UAE Red Crescent Authority were the biggest donors towards development projects, which amounted to nearly two per cent (Dh 7.1m) of the UAE's overall aid to Pakistan," the report said.

According to Ocfa, the aid that the UAE provides to Pakistan is split into several areas.

They include charity, commodity aid and general programme assistance, economic infrastructure and services, environmental protection, humanitarian aid, production sectors, and social infrastructure and services.

Economic infrastructure was added in 2009, with Dh22.8m in cash.

nhanif@thenational.ae