UAE raises $44m for snow-hit refugees

The Tarahamu – or ‘show compassion' – campaign aims to raise emergency funds for refugees facing sub-zero temperatures in camps across the Levant

The UAE has raised AED163m ($44.4m) in the first days of a drive to deliver lifesaving aid to 1 million refugees as bitter winter storms sweep the Levant.

The Tarahamu – or ‘show compassion' – campaign aims to raise emergency funds for refugees facing sub-zero temperatures in camps across the region, as the Middle East braces under its worst storm for more than a decade.

The first round of an airlift began from the Gulf state last week, delivering blankets, food parcels, winter clothes and other essential items to families in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine.

The UAE Red Crescent has also distributed blankets and food parcels to about 500 Palestinian families in Gaza, while the Khalifa Foundation delivered aid supplies to more than 3,000 Syrian refugees in northern Lebanon.

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa urged the public to donate to ongoing relief efforts. “The children of the UAE are the children of good and generous Zayed,” he said. “We invite all our citizens and residents to participate in this national campaign to aid our refugee brothers and sisters suffering from harsh winter conditions in the Levant.”

Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum also took to Twitter to brief his 3.5 million followers about the fundraising drive. “I ask of all global and humanitarian organisations and governments to stand up for the children and women in the refugee camps as they will face the storm in their tents with little food,” he said.

UAE firms that have pledged funds to the campaign include Emirates Airline, which gifted AED5m ($1.4m), and Al Ghaith Group, which gave AED1m ($272,000).

International and local aid agencies have mobilised in recent days in an attempt to aid refugees threated by snowstorm Huda. Winds exceeding speeds of 110kph are forecast, while temperatures are set to drop to – 4oC Lebanon, which hosts more than 1.1 million of the region’s 3.2 million Syrian refugees across 1,700 settlements, has been particularly badly affected. The country’s Bekaa Valley was blanketed in snow on Wednesday, cutting off roads and affecting tens of thousands of refugees, according to UNHCR.

Many of Lebanon’s refugees live in makeshift shelters, with little protection from harsh winter conditions.

“The situation in Lebanon remains precarious for refugees given the extremely poor conditions in which they live and the scattered nature of the population,” said Ninette Kelley, UNHCR Representative to Lebanon. “It is a constant challenge to ensure that refugees remain safe and warm throughout the winter months.”