UAE government donations to UNHCR approach $7.5m in 2017-2018

Since the onset of the Rohingya crisis last year, UNHCR has sent 16 emergency flights loaded with relief items to Southern Bangladesh. "Twelve of these flights came out of Dubai, and the UAE paid for the transportation costs of eight of them, valued between $1.5 - 2 million," according to the head of the UN Refugee Agency in the UAE.

"Last year, when we were setting up our presence in Southern Bangladesh, we had to fly 16 flights loaded with emergency relief items, including the most basic items you can imagine, such as plastic sheets to put over people’s heads and kitchen sets," Toby Harward, Head of the UNHCR Office in the UAE, told the Emirates News Agency (WAM), following the signing of a US$2,000,000 agreement provided by the UAE government to support emergency nutrition for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh.

The agreement brings to around $7.5 million the UAE government donations to UNHCR global operations in 2017 - 2018, including the humanitarian aid sent to the Rohingya refugees, who are suffering from "world’s fastest growing refugee crisis," the UNHCR official added.

"Most of these relief items sent to Southern Bangladesh came from our global stockpile in the International Humanitarian City in Dubai where 12 out of these 16 flights got their supplies. The UAE government paid for eight out of these 12 flights and covered their transportation costs, which amounts to between $1.5 - 2 million." Harward added.

"The enormous contributions provided by the UAE help us improve the nutritional status of 132,700 Rohingya refugees, 78 thousands of whom are women and children," he added, noting that the latest financial aid provided by the UAE comes just in the right time to help the refugees survive the monsoon season.

"Monsoon is causing chaos in Bangladesh and we are racing against the clock to ensure the refugees have sufficient nutrition and shelters before the monsoon which can easily wash away their shelters and latrines and creates dangerous diseases like cholera. In light of such huge needs and the desperate situation in southern Bangladesh, the UAE support will have a significant impact on ensuring the most vulnerable women and children will receive better treatment."

The money will help UNHCR prevent malnutrition through the development of adequate feeding programmes and the treatment of the children who are suffering from severe, to acute and moderate malnutrition. It will also be used in organising awareness sessions and group counselling and reduce the mortality and morbidity ratio between boys and girls as well as between pregnant and lactating women, according to Harward.

"Though the Syrian refugees crisis is the largest in the world, as their number reached some 5.5 million, while Rohingya refugees are around 870,000, yet the situation in Bangladesh constitutes the fastest growing crisis that started to aggravate in the last four months of 2017 which saw 671,000 new refugee arrivals in southern Bangladesh."

The support provided by the UAE for UNHCR operations is not confined to the government sector, as private sector entities have been a significant contributor as well, according to the international official.

He lauded the support provided by both HRH Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, Wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and chairperson of the International Humanitarian City, who financed shipment of tents, blankets and mobile kitchens, and H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of H.H. the Ruler of Sharjah, and Chairperson of the Big Heart Foundation, who, he said, is the UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children and key contributor to the Rohingya crisis.

"Sheikha Jawaher is a key contributor to the Rohingya crisis and through the Big Heart Foundation we have supported refugees in a number of countries, like Turkey and Egypt."

"Dubai and Abu Dhabi are important locations for our private sector operations because so many big international organisations in MENA region are based here in the UAE because it is a good place to do business. So, it’s a very important place for us to do as much advocacy with the private sector as possible to get private sector to support our humanitarian response. So whether it is just a matter of fund-raising or finding a niche for private sector to support by, for example, convincing some companies to employ refugees, we seek to engage the private sector to support their governments in meeting refugees' needs."

"However," he continued, "the huge scale of the displacement crisis requires new solutions to share responsibility and ease the burden on refugees around the world. Our current requirements for the Rohingya crisis amount to $233 million and out of this we only received 11 percent until the end of the last month."

Harward referred to the great support provided by Saudi Arabia and UAE to the Yemen Humanitarian Fund last month. He also lauded the support lent by the UAE for the Syrian refugees in Zaatari camp since the beginning of their crisis, including the establishment of a sewerage network worth $4.5 million (in 2015) and the food, education and health services. In addition, the UAE runs the Mrajeeb al Fhood refugee camp in Jordan, which hosts some 7,000 Syrian refugees.

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