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Members of Voice of Humanity receive relief materials at a collection point in a Dubai restaurant. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: From school students and housewives to office boys and entrepreneurs, Indian expats in the UAE continue to send hundreds of kilos of relief materials to Indian states battling floods, landslides and incessant rains.

With the South Indian state of Kerala suffering the maximum destruction and casualties in this month’s floods and landslides, Malayalis who form more than one third of the Indian expat community in the UAE have been active in relief operations back home and from here.

Members of Voice of Humanity, a registered charity in Kerala with film actors and other artists as executive members, opened eight collection points in the UAE and sent out 500kg of relief materials on Monday, said Manaf Abdullah, one of the coordinators. The next batch with 500kg will be sent to Kerala on Saturday.

He told Gulf News restaurants and cafés that came forward to be the collection points received various types of essential materials for those affected in the floods.

I was touched when a group of students from the Gulf Model School near our restaurant came to donate whatever they could.

- Adharsh M. Unnikrishanan, operations manager of Al Madina Wide Range restaurant in Muhaisnah

Adharsh M. Unnikrishanan, operations manager of Al Madina Wide Range restaurant in Muhaisnah, one of the collection points, said response from the residents has been overwhelming.

“I was touched when a group of students from the Gulf Model School near our restaurant came to donate whatever they could.”

Abdullah said a group of Sharjah-based YouTubers also helped in the collection drive.

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Volunteers, local residents and members of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) search for survivors in the debris left by a landslide at Puthumala at Meppadi in the Wayanad district of the Indian state of Kerala. Image Credit: AFP

Pickup vehicles were arranged to collect the materials from the collection points and the materials were sorted in an event management company’s warehouse, said Abdullah.

He said one of the members from the UAE, who has already reached Kerala, would take charge of distribution in the flood-hit areas.

“Thirty five members of our Kochi-based organisation under the patronage of film director-cum-actor Nadir Shah are going door-to- door in affected areas. Now, our people are mainly focusing in tribal colonies in Nilambur, which were badly affected and marooned in the floods,” said Abdullah, who was actively involved in flood relief operations back home during the devastating deluge in 2018 as well.

Red tape concerns

Fearing delay in their help reaching the beneficiaries due to taxation issues and red tape like last year, some Malayali expats have resorted to send relief through personal contacts, NGOs and district collectors.

Save Kerala, a flood-relief initiative that took shape out of concern for their motherland among a few friends, shipped almost 300kg of relief materials to Kozhikode on Friday.

Coordinators Nijin and Ranjith said they were only four or five friends when they began a WhatsApp group for this purpose soon after floods hit Kerala again this year. As word spread, around 50 people joined them and they managed to collect various essential materials to be distributed to flood-hit people.

Many people were willing to carry these items by reducing their luggage when they were travelling back home.

- Nafeesa Ismail, Dubai resident

They said the group sent out the cargo in the name of the district collector of Kozhikode after the sub-collector gave them assurance of receiving and distributing the materials.

Nafeesa Ismail, a Dubai resident who was among the first to take the initiative of collecting relief materials to be sent to Kerala, said she also sought help of personal contacts to send and distribute the materials to the camps.

“I was moved when we got support from many people including my Pakistani neighbour. Many people were willing to carry these items by reducing their luggage when they were travelling back home. Those who helped in distributing the items sent me photos when the items were handed over to camps.”

Members of Facebook Group Malabar Adukkala have also been actively involved in relief operations.

“Our group is out on field for relief operations in Wayanad and Kannur where floods and landslides have caused massive destructions. In the UAE, we women have also been connecting people with resources and those in need through social media after verifying each and every request for help,” said Nazina Shamsheer, a member of the group.

Maharashtra and Karnataka

Expats from other Indian states like Maharashtra and Karnataka, which also witnessed severe damages and loss of lives this monsoon, are also doing their bit to help their people back home.

A group of Maharashtrian expats has arranged help for daily needs for several flood-hit farmers in Sangli and Kolhapur. “Since last week, our people have been supplying food items, clothes, blankets and other items every day,” said Pankaj Ramesh Aute.

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Relief materials sent out by Dubai resident Nafeesa Ismail being received at a relief camp in Wayanad in Kerala Image Credit: Supplied

He said the Maharashtrian expats are focusing on long term educational support and sponsorship for students from the flood-hit areas.

“We have also agreed to try our best to give career opportunities to young graduates and technical students by giving reference to companies in the UAE and other GCC countries.”

Aute said expats arranged a medical camp as many villagers were having fungal infections after staying in water for long.

“We are also trying to address their psychological problems. They are very disturbed as they have lost everything that they had — houses, fields, animals — and they had never faced this kind of a problem in their life.

500kg

of relief materials were sent by Voice of Humanity on Monday

Since the villagers were caught unawares during this year’s floods, Aute said, the group will also arrange disaster management training programme for villagers in both Sangli and Kolhapur to face flood challenges in future.

“We consider it as a very important part of our responsibility towards our community,” he added.

Prakash Chinnappa Choundira of the UAE Kodavas community said members of the community are helping those affected by floods in the Coorg area in Karnataka by coordinating with Coorg Wellness Foundation back home.

Since collecting funds is legally not permitted, he said, generous community members the community are arranging money back home to support the flood victims.

“Our place is nowhere near when it comes to government mechanisms and other private aid for relief operations as compared to the support people affected in our neighbouring district in Kerala get. Our agriculture sector has been hit hard. Several coffee plantations have been destroyed and the farmers are suffering. We expats want this to be addressed.”

Corporate volunteers

Aster Volunteers, the global corporate social responsibility programme of Aster DM Healthcare, on Tuesday said more than 45,000 people have benefited by Aster Volunteers’ flood relief efforts in Kerala and Kolhapur, which are still continuing.

Nearly 500 Aster Volunteers from Aster Aadhar Hospital conducted relief efforts when the Kolhapur city was affected by floods, distributing 400 food packets daily. A total of 12,000 flood victims were provided food packets during those days. Additionally, 35 relief camps were held and eight ambulances were on-field treating patients throughout the eight days of flood. The volunteers also provided medical aid to the needy, thus ensuring health care services for the flood-affected victims.

For this, Aster Volunteers worked closely with Kolhapur Municipal Corporation and District Disaster Authority Government of Maharashtra. Aster Aadhar Hospital is the first health care institution in Maharashtra to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with District Disaster Authority, Government of Maharashtra, the group said.

With more than 600 Aster Volunteers deployed in the flood-affected areas of Kerala like Malapuram, Wayanad, Calicut, Kannur and Kochi, the team has impacted more than 37,000 people. Through 30 relief camps and 63 medical camps and round-the-clock ambulance services on field, Aster Volunteers focused on disease prevention in the flood affected cities.

Apart from the health care services, the members of Aster Volunteers distributed other humanitarian aid including rice, food packets, a large volume of medicines, drinking water, clothes, bedsheets, floor mats, mops, chlorine tablets and more in various flood affected areas, the group said.