Hundreds of refugees come across the border from Syria into Jordan at remote eastern desert locations such as those at Riqban and Hadalat - tiny Jordanian military outposts where the border patrol are the first to meet the new arrivals. Image Credit: UNHCR

Dubai: Since the start of this Ramadan, the new Refugee Zakat Fund of the United Nations’ agency for refugees has helped more than 1,180 families.

With Eid just around the corner, very little time is left to bring a smile on the faces of thousands of other refugee families this festive season, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reminded Muslims across the world.

Unveiled in April, the Refugee Zakat Fund is a Sharia-compliant global online platform under UNHCR to channelise Muslims’ obligatory alms for the displaced and refugee families.

More than 3,830 Zakat donors around the world have donated over $1 million (Dh3.67 million) to support the UN agency’s campaign asking Muslims to remember the refugees in Ramadan.

“Our mission this Ramadan is not over yet,” the UNHCR said in an emailed statement on Friday.

“Only [a] few days left before we bid farewell to Ramadan, and there is no better time than these blessed nights and days to show kindness and generosity towards those who still have faith in us and in humanity.”

“During these blessed nights, we are aiming to double this number and reach many more refugee orphans, widows, and elderly, like the families you will see in this email — Abu Mohammad, Narun, Batra, and Shahed who are counting on us,” the agency stated, citing examples of the Syrian elderly refugee, Rohingya widow, displaced Yemeni, and refugee orphan respectively.

With your help, the UN agency said, it aims to reach additional 1,180 families before Eid. “For each donation you make today, we will add a new family to the line of assistance and this means more families will be helped before Eid.”

The needs of refugee families in countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Mauritania are very big, Houssam Chahin, UNHCR’s head of private sector partnerships, MENA, told Gulf News on Sunday.

“Kids are looking forward to the joy of Eid. So, in our message in the last few days of Ramadan, we want to emphasise that any support through the zakat fund or otherwise to these families will put a smile on their faces.”

So far, he said, the agency has supported 50,000 individuals through different channels including the zakat fund.

Aimed at aiding the most vulnerable displaced populations from Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, the fund accepts contributions all year round through the site

Through the fund, the UNHCR aims to channel life-saving support to 24,000 of the most vulnerable refugee and displaced families this year.

Helping Rohingyas cook

It was last week that the agency extended the scope of the Refugee Zakat Fund to cover displaced Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh.

It said Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are fully eligible to receive Zakat, being a displaced Muslim community living in poor conditions, and in dire need of assistance, and considered as stranded travellers waiting to go back to their homeland.

However, the zakat fund is not used to provide them with cash assistance at the moment, revealed Chahin.

“In Bangladesh, we are not providing cash assistance per se. Our main support is going directly to provide cooking gas to support women to serve families with food.”

The Rohingya refugees have no source of fuel but the wood they collect from a rapidly disappearing forest.

Chahin pointed out that Rohingya women have to walk for long distances to get firewood for cooking.

By providing them with cooking gas, a key resource missing from aid packages, the UNHCR aims at not only helping them serve food, but also protecting women and children from making dangerous treks in search of firewood.