08/22/2009 10:43 PM | By Abdullah Rasheed, Abu Dhabi Editor
Abu Dhabi: The UAE is exerting all efforts under the leadership of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to alleviate the suffering of people, who are victims of natural and man-made disasters, throughout the world.
The UAE has always offered high quality humanitarian aid to the affected people and are prompt in reaching the disaster areas. It extends help and relief to all those in need, irrespective of their race, ethnicity or religion.
The principle of human solidarity is always present in the wise leadership's agenda and this value is always practised by Emiratis and residents alike in the country.
To shed the light on the UAE's efforts in this field, Gulf News met Sana'a Darwish Al Katbi, Advisor on Human Affairs to Shaikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA).
Sana'a is one of the pioneers who has received the Abu Dhabi Awards. The awards honour citizens and residents who live or have lived in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and have made considerable contribution to building a greater sense of community and social welfare.
Gulf News: What is the position of the UAE on the international humanitarian relief map?
Sana'a Darwish Al Katbi: The UAE, under the directions of its wise leadership, is one of the leading charity powers in the world, and shoulders its responsibilities in protecting human dignity.
The international arena is facing many challenges due to increase in disasters, conflicts and wars. There is an increase in the number of refugees and displaced people, and many of them live in inhumane conditions.
Those who follow the UAE's march in this vital field will find that it is working in many countries and fields with the aim of reducing the burden of those people who are affected by disasters and threatened by hunger, poverty and disease.
The UAE has set up organisations and funds for undertaking development and construction activities in poor countries which are affected by such unfortunate events.
These organisations include the Red Crescent Authority, the Zayed Foundation, Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Charity Foundation, Dubai Cares, Noor Dubai, the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Establishment, and other foundations that extend their help and support to the people in need without any discrimination and in all parts of the world. The UAE places these unfortunate people at the top of its priorities out of its human responsibility, which it pledged to God to carry out in the best possible way and at all circumstances.
What are the UAE's contributions in fighting famine in the world?
The current food crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing the international community. Hundreds of millions of people are threatened by famine. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) sounded the alarm at its latest conference in Rome and has called on governments, Non-Governmental Organisations and private sectors to do more to help the needy people.
FAO reports revealed that 862 million people suffer from famines. Moreover 290 million from 53 countries need urgent aid and the world needs to pump $30 billion annually to curb the effects of food shortage and prevent famines.
Reports by other international organisations shows that more than 200 million people are affected every year by drought, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, fires and other risks, besides the effects of environmental deterioration and climatic change.
How much is the value of humanitarian aid extended by the UAE to international relief organisations to fight famine around the world?
The UAE is not far from these developments on the human arena. It realised the dangers posed by food shortage very early.
Within this framework, President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued instructions to give sisterly and friendly countries millions of tonnes of wheat to fill the gap in their needs of this vital commodity.
The UAE also realised the importance of enhancing partnership with humanitarian organisations, and strongly supported international efforts to bolster ties between donors and supporters.
It also included all sectors of the local society in its humanitarian efforts and introduced distinguished programmes to keep with the events in flash points and provide the needs of the affected people.
The value of aid and grants given by the UAE to other countries exceeds Dh50 billion.
What is the strategy that leads the UAE's role in international relief?
The UAE's strategy is based on supporting international efforts to curb the effects of disasters and build the capacity of fragile communities to deal with such crises.
It also includes activating preparedness mechanisms to face disasters and quick intervention to protect the victims.
The UAE's plan in this regard is based on readiness and prediction of any possible crisis to protect the vulnerable communities.
Thus, the country works to improve scientific and technological abilities to develop monitoring and early warning systems, as well as to develop the skills of workers in this field through training courses.
It also works to spread a disaster combating culture among various social sectors, especially educational institutes, and some UAE universities designed specialist programmes in this field.
Curbing the risk of disasters is a real priority for the UAE leadership, besides taking practical and rapid steps to make communities safer from disasters.
What is the role of the Foreign Aid Coordination Office set up by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Zayed?
The office was set up in a bid to unify the country's humanitarian efforts and direct them towards the victims of conflicts and disasters. It aims to reach all targeted people outside, avoid duplicity of work and increase the beneficiaries.
The office also works to enhance the volunteer culture in society and set up bodies to absorb youth energy through volunteering, such as Takatuf.
Furthermore, to encourage authorities, organisations and individuals to give more to humanity, the Shaikh Zayed Humanitarian Award was set up, while the Dubai Humanitarian Services City was established to offer logistic support, which is one of the main success factors in relief work. The city provides a strategic stock of relief material to be used in case of emergency and crises, especially that the UAE has a strategic location near the areas of conflicts and disasters in Africa and Asia.
What about development projects for poor people?
This is another axis for humanitarian work. The UAE worked hard to enhance partnership, which is a must in international humanitarian work to assist poor people, considering the challenges facing the international community in this field.
Bilateral cooperation was boosted with governments, United Nations bodies, humanitarian foundations and development funds to combat disasters and reduce their effects.
The UAE also enhanced its leading humanitarian role by offering immediate aid as soon as a disaster happens and undertaking rebuilding projects to develop infrastructure, housing, health and education.
It also implemented many ambitious development projects in Iraq and the South East Asian countries which were affected by tsunami.