x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE Red Crescent in aid deal with UN

The UN's refugee agency will soon sign an agreement with the UAE Red Crescent, seeking to improve the delivery of aid in emergency situations.

DUBAI // The UN's refugee agency will soon sign an agreement with the UAE's Red Crescent to improve the coordination, training and response of both organisations to emergencies.

A visiting UN official said yesterday that the memorandum of understanding, the first of its kind, intended to get countries such as the Emirates involved in shaping the UN's policies of assistance.

"We have always worked a great deal with the Red Crescent over many years," said Imran Riza, the Saudi-based regional representative in Gulf Cooperation Countries for the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"We have sometimes executed things on their behalf. But because we are working on a range of different things in different areas in emergency response, it was thought wise to try to structure it.

"It would help us in terms of coordination in responding to emergencies, in terms of mutual support, building capacity, and strategising together," Mr Riza said, at the International Humanitarian City (IHC) in Dubai.

He said the agreement was in its final stages but would not say when it would be ready.

Mr Riza said that despite the experience and assistance to refugees provided by the UAE and Red Crescent, "it hasn't translated into shaping the international community's policies".

"We would like more engagement with our own policymakers."

The time for the agreement was right "given the amount of emergencies in the region", and the Red Crescent's experience in dealing with refugees and working in camps, Mr Riza said.

During his visit, he met with UAE authorities to discuss the agreement, and to urge them to contribute to a US$193 million (Dh710m) appeal to assist Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

The UNHCR's aid stockpile in Dubai - one of the largest in the world - has been providing relief such as tents, blankets and kitchen sets to Syrian refugees and nationals from other countries.

The agency recently moved to a new warehouse in Jebel Ali that will hold more aid to quickly reach out to as many as 350,000 people within 72 hours during crises.

In the first six months of this year, the warehouse sent supplies to 15 countries. This included 122,575 tents, 121,650 mosquito nets, 65,250 blankets and 289,390 buckets, all worth more than $15m.

Mr Riza urged people in the Muslim world to reflect on the humanitarian consequences of the Arab Spring and do their part for refugees during the Holy Month.

"Ramadan is an occasion, especially for people who generally don't think about refugees, to reflect a bit, given what's happening from the Arab Spring," he said.

To raise awareness, the IHC and UAE agencies will provide information on the critical emergencies, the needs of refugees and the UAE's role on World Humanitarian Day - August 19 - at the fountain area outside the Burj Khalifa.

pkannan@thenational.ae