A food basket campaign funded by the UAE is under way in Palestine. The UAE has launched a series of philanthropic works upholding the spirit of benevolence and charity of Shaikh Zayed. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: Lending a helping hand to those in need is what the UAE always does.

The world’s 16th largest foreign aid donors last year, the UAE is now paying tribute to the man who made known to the world his country’s leadership, and spread the virtues of his culture, through the universal language of benefaction and goodwill. In remembrance of its founding father, late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE is taking a leaf out of the life of the father of the nation, a world-renowned philanthropist himself, with a flurry of philanthropic works upholding to the same spirit of benevolence and charity the late leader championed.

Ramadan 19, named as “Emirati Humanitarian Work Day”, is an annual event in memory of the late Shaikh Zayed and aims to inculcate the spirit of giving and philanthropy nationwide, said Mohammad Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs.

According to the Islamic Hijri calendar, the 19th marks the ninth anniversary of the death of the founding father of the UAE, who passed away on 2nd November 2004.

Mariam Al Roumi, Minister of Social Affairs, said as many as 1,500 charitable activities will be organised across the country by 270 local and federal departments to mark the day.

The activities will feature presenting refrigerators and air conditioners to the needy families, setting up a chocolate factory to offer jobs to people with special needs, workshops for needy families, a day for orphans and distribution of Ramadan rations and Eid Al Fitr gifts.

In the lead up to the Humanitarian Work Day, The UAE has launched the “Egypt in Our Heart” campaign, which will contribute to infrastructure development in Egypt, upon directives of the President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The campaign is supported by the UAE’s Red Crescent Authority (RCA) and the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, and aims to help Egyptian youth start their own businesses by granting them small loans and training them to secure well-paying jobs.

Foreign aid is one of the top priorities in the UAE’s external relations approach. The philosophy behind this is two-fold: first, it is dictated by an Islamic belief that helping those in need is a primary duty; and second, that part of the country’s wealth from oil and gas should be devoted to assisting other countries and individuals that are less fortunate.

The country continuously extends its financial and humanitarian aid to several countries, whether through development programs, infrastructure projects, or offering aid to countries suffering from wars and natural disasters directly or indirectly, through the UAE’s membership in the donor countries’ group in the OCHA, as well as contributing to other UN programems and with other organisations in the fields.

Overall, during the last three-and-a-half decades, the UAE has contributed more than Dh255 billion ($70 b) in loans, grants and assistance for development projects in nearly 100 countries around the world. While much of the assistance is provided on a government-to-government basis, the country is also a major contributor to international agencies, having made Dh100 billion ($27 b) available through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

In another high-profile philanthropic activity, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum , Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, , has given orders to increase the number of beneficiaries of the “Dress a Million Children” campaign as it has already reached its target of clothing one million underprivileged children around the world. The campaign is scheduled to end on 19 Ramadan to coincide with Emirati Humanitarian Work Day.

An official report issued by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Commission (DAC) has shown an improvement in the UAE’s international donor standing, placing it at the 16th position in 2012 in the proportion of the foreign assistance it provides in relation to its gross national income (GNI), advancing from the 20th global position in 2011, and the 26th in 2010.

Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development, said that the advanced rankings attained by the UAE over the past few years and the year on year improvements in the UAE’s ranking among the world’s foremost foreign aid donors is credited to the clear vision of the country’s leadership under President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to develop the country’s foreign assistance programmes and enhance their effectiveness and sound direction leading up to the UAE attaining recognition as the world’s 16th largest provider of foreign assistance last year.

In a third leading initiative, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation has helped more than 260,000 displaced Syrian families since 2011, including about 135,000 in Lebanon.

In yet another prominent charitable work, Noor Dubai Foundation, an NGO that was launched by Shaikh Mohammad, to combat blindness and visual disability, has started its free screening programme to mark “Emirati Humanitarian Work Day”.

The “Big Heart “ — a massive campaign to help Syrian refugee children was also launched on World Refugee Day on June 20 by Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.