ABU DHABI / DUBAI: The UAE has become the nerve centre of global humanitarian response. And it's by design in a country whose founding fathers were keen to harness their energies to serve human development.
Whether it’s responding to humanitarian needs in trouble spots, or medical emergencies triggered by on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE’s role in providing logistics support, warehousing as well as the country’s practice of generosity shows in the numbers.
Coronavirus aid to 71 countries
And while the UAE takes aggressive action at home to fight the spread of the COVID-19 (and Emirati doctors are helping fight the pandemic even in the US), the country is also helping other countries respond to the contagion.
In Abu Dhabi, a factory that makes aircraft parts (Strata, located in the desert oasis city of Al Ain) was repurposed to manufacture N95 masks at a rate of up to 90,000 units per day, allowing the UAE to export masks and PPEs to neighbours and far-away countries.
71number of countries that received a total of 1,046 tons of coronavirus-related aid from the UAE since the start of the pandemic
Since the start of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, the UAE has delivered critical medical supplies to at least 71 countries.
Moreover, the country made UAE-owned facilities abroad available to local governments, supplied donations to local initiatives, and assisted in the repatriation of foreign nationals.
In Dubai, the UAE has harnessed the full potential of the International Humanitarian City (IHC), now the world’s largest humanitarian logistics hub.
Dubai's IHC plays a key role in the operations of numerous branches of the United Nations — WHO, WFP, Unicef and others. Its work is enabled by air bridges organised at a short notice, allowing for quick response to emergencies anywhere in the world.
9number of United Nations agencies operating at the International Humanitarian City
The numbers tell the story
The vision was set nearly five decades ago, but the capacity was built up year after year.
This 2020, the UAE has responded to the COVID-19 crisis by providing over 1,046 metric tons of aid to 71 countries both near and far, in a massive logistical initiative that translates to support for more than 1 million medical professionals around the world responding to the pandemic.
Both Etihad Airways and Emirates are bolstering their fleets of freighters to keep critical commercial goods like pharmaceuticals and medical devices moving.
Together, the two airlines continue to support in the delivery of international humanitarian relief assistance overseas.
The IHC, based in Dubai, has played a key role in making sure supplies are prepared and shipped to where they are most needed
IHC’s members include nine UN agencies, apart from nearly 50 NGOs and businesses working in the aid sector. IHC was first opened in 2003.
In 2011, when IHC moved to its current location (in Dubai Industrial City, near Jebel Ali Port and Al Maktoum Airport) it tripled in size, but demand for space has continued to climb rapidly.
In 2017, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has approved the expansion if warehouse facilities in response to urgent demand from leading UN and NGO agencies, most notably the Red Crescent, UNHCR, ICRC and the World Food Programme.
The IHC has played a central role in helping over 65 million people displaced by conflicts, which triggered a sharp demand for aid, now at its highest worldwide since World War II.
Emirati doctors serving in the US
Today, several Emirati doctors have remained at their positions in US hospitals and medical institutions across the country to support and work alongside their American counterparts in the fight against COVID-19.
Dr. Ajlan Al Zaki, originally from Abu Dhabi, is an internal medicine resident at Stanford Health Care, where he is treating COVID-19 patients.
WHO logistics hub
The UAE is working with WHO to combat the coronavirus and support countries in need. As of June 5, the UAE has donated $10 million worth of COVID-19 testing kits, enough for 500,000 people, to the WHO.
The IHC houses the WHO Operations Supply and Logistics Hub. This facility that is instrumental in supplying countries with required medical supplies and protective equipment.
The IHC has facilitated the distribution of over 85% of the World Health Organization’s "Global Medical Response in the Fight Against COVID-19", including much-needed medical supplies, such as masks, gloves and surgical gowns.
The country is also well positioned as a global aviation hub. In partnership with the World Food Program (WFP), the UAE launched an international "air bridge" operation that will provide a lifeline of essential health and humanitarian supplies to nations around the world grappling with the impact of COVID-19.
The country has dedicated a fleet of three aircraft to enable the movement of life-saving cargo and personnel where they are needed most until the end of the year.
On May 28, one of the planes delivered parts of a field hospital to Ghana in support of a UN mission to protect aid workers in West Africa. The UAE also helped to transport parts of a field hospital from Norway to Ethiopia.
“WFP has been working tirelessly to set up the logistics backbone for the global COVID-19 effort,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Program. “This partnership with the UAE will expand our capacity and support health and humanitarian organizations as we rally together to limit the spread of the virus and its devastating effects.”
It was the UAE's founding father, Sheikh Zayed, who set foreign aid and assistance as pillars of the country’s foreign policy.
Since then, the UAE’s global stature in the field of humanitarian work has grown steadily: In 2018, the country’s total foreign aid contributions grew to more than Dh28.5 billion ($7.76 billion).
It's just an indicator of the UAE’s founding ethos of solidarity, tolerance and leadership to improve lives.
The UAE, with a population of 9.63 million (World Bank, 2018), has consistently topped the rankings of aid donors.
In 2017, the UAE ranked as No. 1 among the official development aid donors, relative to its national income, having given Dh19.3bn in development aid to 147 countries. That year, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reckoned that the UAE had spent 1.31 per cent of its gross national income (GNI) on foreign developmental aid.
Sweden came second, at 1.01% of their BNI, and Luxembourg, second with 1% of GNI. The UN recommends 0.7% of GNI.
In 2017, it was already the fifth consecutive year the UAE was been named the world’s largest official development aid donor relative to national income.
Even in COVID times, given the continuous International Humanitarian City work and the massive airlift operations to several nations, the UAE is a country that continues to share its good fortune with all humanity.