x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE 'very engaged' on Syrian aid

Humanitarian conference in Dubai told efforts must continue to help hundreds of thousands fleeing Syria for neighbouring countries

Syrian refugees, who fled the unrest in Syria, carry a box of food distributed by the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent ahead of Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria. Reuters / Majed Jaber
Syrian refugees, who fled the unrest in Syria, carry a box of food distributed by the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent ahead of Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria. Reuters / Majed Jaber

DUBAI // A top United Nations official has encouraged UAE charities to continue efforts to help Syrian refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries to escape the conflict at home.

The UAE has pledged more than  Dh1.1?billion for Syrian refugee aid, overseen by the UAE Red Crescent.

Humanitarian organisations said the violence in Syria was “causing the worst refugee crisis of the 21st century” and was “the most complex and dangerous conflict” facing the world.

“The Government and charities of the UAE have been very engaged in their assistance to Syrian victims, such as the work done by the UAE Red Crescent or the Khalifa Foundation,” said Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Efforts must continue to strengthen the coordination and joint planning of the different interventions, so as to direct resources where they are needed most urgently and will have the highest impact.”

Speaking yesterday at the opening of the 10th Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development (Dihad) conference and exhibition, Mr Guterres said Arabian Gulf states should work together to help Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, which are sheltering hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

“Governments must also work in partnership to respond to the humanitarian, political and security challenge of the Syrian crisis.

At the regional level, support is most urgently needed to help the countries hosting Syrian refugees ... whose capacities are stretched to the limit.

“The Gulf countries have an important partnership role to play in this effort, both bilaterally and through regional organisations.”
According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are now almost 1.2 million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

Daily arrival figures, which were about 3,000 people in December, have quadrupled in recent weeks. As many as 14,000 people are believed to cross into neighbouring countries every 24 hours.

The UAE Red Crescent has built a refugee camp made up of caravans able to house 6,000 families in Jordan, while covering operating costs for the camp, in addition to a field hospital to provide medical care for the flood of refugees.

The UAE has given more than Dh?225bn in foreign aid to more than 90 countries since its founding in 1971. According to the Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid in Abu Dhabi, assistance from the UAE in 2011 alone stood at Dh7.74m.

After opening the three-day conference, Princess Haya of Jordan, chairwoman for International Humanitarian City (IHC) in Dubai, described the UAE as “a humanitarian capital” and a “relief station for the poor.”

“Much has happened in the world of humanitarian aid since Dihad was founded a decade ago. The intensity of both civil conflict and natural disasters has been overwhelming at times … our limits have been tested.”

Referring to the UAE’s efforts in helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy in the US, Princess Haya, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: “We have seen countless times in every region of the world that no country is stronger or more powerful than nature.

“There is no shame in receiving aid and no moral superiority in providing it.

“The giving and receiving transaction is no indication of strength or weakness. It is an affirmation of our common humanity.

“Even the wealthiest nations have times of need ... we are all in this together, and working together is the most effective way to help each other.”

pkannan@thenational.ae