x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE gives billions to help heal the world

In 2011, the UAE not only donated Dh7.2 billion, but worked in providing assistance to more than 120 countries, a jump from Dh2.8 billion provided in 2010.

A Syrian refugee at the UAE-funded camp in Jordan’s Mrajeeb Al Fhood area, which was inaugurated yesterday by Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Development and International Cooperation. The “five-star” camp will house more than 25,000 people, mostly children. Salah Malkawi / The National
A Syrian refugee at the UAE-funded camp in Jordan’s Mrajeeb Al Fhood area, which was inaugurated yesterday by Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Development and International Cooperation. The “five-star” camp will house more than 25,000 people, mostly children. Salah Malkawi / The National

ABU DHABI // Turmoil in the Arab world signalled a turning point in the amount spent on foreign aid by the UAE, whose efforts have been recognised worldwide.

The country donated Dh7.2 billion in 2011- a jump from Dh2.8bn in 2010 - and provided assistance to more than 120 countries.

Of that, Dh625.3 million was dedicated to humanitarian assistance in more than 30 countries, most of them Arab.

A vast amount of aid this year has gone towards helping Syrian refugees, including a Dh36m UAE-run refugee camp in Jordan.

Labelled as a "five-star camp" by Andrew Harper, the UN refugee agency's representative in Jordan, it can house more than 25,000 people, mostly children, orphans, severe casualties and widows.

The UAE has been giving foreign aid for the past decade but donations notably increased following the eruption of protests in Libya in February 2011.

A crisis soon followed, not only in terms of armed conflict and clashes, but of shortages of food, medicine and fuel and increasing numbers of needy refugees.

"The Libya crisis provided the trigger for a major new initiative in the UAE's response to humanitarian emergencies," the office of coordination of foreign aid said in their latest report.

On February 25, 2011, the President, Sheikh Khalifa, ordered donor organisations to work together as a "UAE Relief Team", which included the UAE Red Crescent, the Khalifa Foundation, the Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment, the Zayed Foundation and the Government.

Within the year, the UAE gave Dh247.7m to help refugees on the Egyptian and Tunisian borders, Dh213m coming directly from the UAE Relief Team.

Planes and cargo ships of medicine, medical equipment, food and other items were sent regularly.

As the crisis continued, refugee camps and field hospitals were set up, sheltering 27,000 people and treating 16,000.

Even today, Abu Dhabi police cars can be found in Libya. They were first shipped in 2011 to help restore security in the country.

When Sudan split into two countries on July 9, 2011, the UAE contributed Dh149.6m to both new countries to help rebuild and support education and orphans and provide potable water.

When Yemen was hit by a humanitarian crisis in 2011 the UAE donated Dh292.1m. Help came in the form of 40,000 tonnes of diesel fuel, shelter, non-food items and medical and health programmes.

The UAE also committed Dh53.5m towards the fight against malaria in a project that will continue for another two years.

The foreign aid office notes that Dh106m in aid was given to Syria in 2011. The amount grew last year as the crisis worsened and again this year. After more than two years of bloodshed the number of refugees is now more than a million.

The Red Crescent alone provided Dh42.487m in aid last year, which went towards building the biggest field hospital in Jordan, and bringing in ambulance cars and housing refugees.

The UAE pledged an additional Dh1.1bn in January at the International Donors Conference for Syria held in Kuwait. It was the joint-largest donation along with offers from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

In these countries the majority of aid was directed towards humanitarian assistance, but in other parts of the world aid was given to promote development. In Africa, Dh83.7m was given to Egypt, followed by Dh42.4m to Tunisia and Dh33m to Algeria.

Funds passed to Egypt were used for housing developments, cancer treatment and support for orphans. In Tunisia funds were used for medical supplies and mobile hospitals.

In East Africa, aid was given to Tanzania (Dh32.7m), Seychelles (Dh21.6m), Kenya (Dh10.1m), and Uganda (Dh9.2m). Most of the funds were used in developmental projects. Other countries among the top 10 helped by the UAE in 2011 include Kazakhstan (Dh315m), Pakistan (Dh277m), Afghanistan (Dh149m), Palestine (Dh124m), and Bahrain (Dh140m).

Beyond the Middle East and Africa, aid was given to Australia (Dh118m), the US (Dh110m), and the UK (Dh48m) among others.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's development assistance commission last year ranked the UAE in 16th place globally - tied with Portugal - for donating 0.27 per cent of its Gross National Income to foreign assistance.

osalem@thenational.ae