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3Novices:UAE has been at the forefront of compassion

The western world is just starting to come to terms with the need to help

Syrian refugees and to tackle the causes of their displacement, but the UAE has long led by example.

About 1.5 million displaced people and refugees have been helped by United Nations programmes funded by the UAE.

The country is one of three original donors, along with Germany and the United States, that financed the establishment of the Syria Recovery Trust Fund in 2013.

Based in Turkey, the fund is designed to channel grants from the international community in a transparent and accountable manner towards humanitarian projects in Syria.

More than 10 other countries contribute to the fund, helping to finance projects in areas such as water, health, housing, education, electricity, food security, law, agriculture and telecommunications.

From 2012 to this year, the UAE donated more than Dh2.1 billion in direct aid, including Dh235 million through contracts with UN agencies – Dh140m to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) alone – and more than Dh600m through the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC).

More than Dh1.5bn has gone to refugees in Jordan, Dh266m to aid inside Syria, more than Dh230m to refugees in Lebanon, up to Dh20m to those displaced in Iraq and the rest to people in Turkey and Egypt.

The UAE spent almost Dh620m on food aid, Dh576m on relief items, Dh324m on shelter and non-food items, more than Dh286m on health, Dh234m on support services and coordination, about Dh85m on water and sanitation, and Dh15m on education.

Last year, the country donated Dh220m through the Regional Response and Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response plans, providing food, water, health, education and sanitation to refugees in Syria and its neighbouring countries.

The ERC, working with Unicef, has spent Dh2.6m providing vaccines to immunise 1.6 million Syrian children against polio.

Another Dh14.4m was donated to the International Rescue Committee, to provide health care to 80,000 Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians, while also providing education and development opportunities to 6,000 Syrian and young Iraqi refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Up to Dh50m was allocated to provide nutrition to children and pregnant or nursing women in Syria through the World Food Programme and Unicef. And Dh92m was also donated to provide nutritional support.

The UAE’s contribution aims to help more than 880,000 people.

In January, the UAE raised Dh257m for the Tarahamu, or Show Compassion, campaign to help one million refugees in the Levant from the winter snowstorm Huda.

The Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation distributed supplies to more than 124,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, while ERC gave out blankets, mattresses, winter clothing and food parcels.

Up to 18 tonnes of clothes were collected to be distributed by Emirates Red Crescent.

During the campaign President Sheikh Khalifa said: “We invite all our citizens and residents to participate in this national campaign to aid our refugee brothers and sisters suffering from harsh winter conditions in the Levant.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted: “I ask all global and humanitarian organisations and governments to stand up for the children and women in the refugee camps, as they will face the storm in their tents with little food.”

The UAE also funds the Mrajeeb Al Fhood refugee camp, which opened near Zarqa in Jordan in April 2013.

It originally supported 6,454 Syrian refugees but expanded its capacity to 10,000. It has a playground, children’s television halls and another hall for ladies’ recreation.

The UNHCR study shows women of all ages and backgrounds felt safe at the camp, with many not even locking their caravans.

“I had a lot of sleepless night on my way to Jordan, as anything could have happened to me and my children,” one said.

“One of things I’m grateful for in this camp is that I learned again how to relax and to fall into a sound sleep.”

Men and boys also said they felt safe there.

Adults said most children were being educated, while women with disabilities and serious medical conditions joined the elderly in thanking management for accommodating more vulnerable people.

The ERC also established a camp for Syrian refugees in northern Iraq, which houses up to 4,000 people.

Elsewhere, in Iraqi Kurdistan, the charity has launched a project to provide almost 30 wells serving 100,000 people, two schools – one for boys and one for girls – each with 12 classrooms for 750 students, and a sewing workshop employing 37 women.

A project to deliver food baskets to 50,000 people in Erbil camps is also up and running.

The UAE has also established a field hospital in Mafraq, Jordan, which treats more than 800 cases a day, referring complex ones to the official Jordanian hospitals.

The Government’s humanitarian support to up to 100,000 Syrians living in refugee camps last year earned the UNHCR’s praise.

“This unstinting gesture allowed UNHCR to reach those populations most in need and is a true reflection of the UAE’s long-standing commitment to alleviating the suffering of vulnerable persons and, of course, the strategic partnership with UNHCR,” said Nabil Othman, UNHCR’s acting representative to the GCC.

The sum of Dh7m, part of a Dh18m aid package, covered more than 200,000 primary healthcare consultations, delivered 3,000 babies, and paid for 16,000 referrals for secondary or tertiary health care in the Zaatari and Azraq camps. The rest was spent on water and sanitation.

Meanwhile, the UAE has also received more than 100,000 Syrians since the crisis began, bringing the total number in the country to 242,324, including more than 17,000 new pupils enrolled in UAE schools.

The country has been a crucial member of the coalition fighting ISIL, stepping up as an early member of the Global Coalition Against Daesh to restore peace and stability to Syria.

Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, says the UAE has spent more than Dh1.5bn battling ISIL and other extremist groups.

As European states argue over how to deal with the huge influx of refugees, the UAE has been at the forefront, offering assistance, aid and security to those in need.
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