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UAE humanitarian efforts a pillar of Africa’s aid and development landscape

In response to the tragic situation in Sudan, the UAE announced humanitarian and relief support for its Sudanese brethren (WAM)
20 Sep 2023 01:52

Ahmed Murad (CAIRO)

Echoing the actionable humanitarian diplomacy pioneered by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the legacy of UAE humanitarian assistance persists through the dedication of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to uphold the ethos enshrined in the “Principles of the Fifty” framework. 
These principles underscore that foreign humanitarian aid from the UAE stands as a fundamental facet of its ethical pledge to uplift less fortunate nations. From the Sahel region to the countries of the Horn of Africa, to Sudan, Uganda, Somalia, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UAE aid is extending a kind hand, supported by air, sea, and land bridges delivering unconditional humanitarian and relief assistance. These efforts benefit millions of individuals facing dire circumstances. 

Relief initiatives
The former Secretary-General of the African Union (formerly the Organization of African Unity), Ambassador Ahmed Hegazy, said that he regards the UAE as a key pillar of humanitarian and relief work in Africa over the past three decades. This has significantly deepened bilateral relations and strengthened strategic partnerships between the UAE and African nations. “Through its humanitarian initiatives and relief campaigns, the UAE has established a special position within the African continent,” Hegazy said. 
This is evident in the keenness of many African countries to expand cooperation with the UAE in various fields, particularly in humanitarian and development projects. Just few weeks ago, the UAE inaugurated its second coordination office for foreign aid missions in the city of Am-Djarass in Chad. This office supports the UAE’s efforts to provide humanitarian and relief support through the UAE’s humanitarian institutions. The team at the Chad office includes representatives from the Emirates Red Crescent Authority, the Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, and the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation for Humanitarian Works.

Humanitarian Diplomacy 
In response to the tragic situation in Sudan, the UAE announced humanitarian and relief support for its Sudanese brethren. Convoys of aid were dispatched via sea, air, and land, carrying tonnes of supplies in addition to medical and food aid to alleviate the suffering of affected civilians and support refugees who fled to neighboring countries. Hegazy emphasised the importance of the UAE’s efforts to enhance security and stability in Africa through various development programmes and aid campaigns aimed at alleviating the impact of natural disasters and conflicts in the continent. This was evident in the UAE’s support for Sudan during its current humanitarian crisis, he added.
Under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s President, a field hospital was established in Am-Djarass, Chad, in July to aid Sudanese refugees. The hospital has treated thousands of medical cases of those affected by the situation in Sudan. The UAE team there continues to provide comprehensive support, meeting essential needs and exemplifying the prominent role the UAE plays in humanitarian efforts within the African continent. 
Dr. Noha Bakr, an international relations expert at the American University in Cairo, explained that the UAE provides an active and distinct humanitarian presence in Africa, demonstrated by its continuous efforts to provide development assistance that extends to various regions of the continent. The group of Sahel countries, which include Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger, receive ongoing support from the UAE. The UAE’s aid to Sahel countries, which are among the world’s least developed nations, amounted to around $750 million between 2018 and 2023, comprising 3% of the country’s foreign aid payments during this period. Approximately 75% of the UAE’s foreign aid to Sahel countries was in the form of developmental assistance, while charitable and humanitarian aid constituted 16% and 9%, respectively. In October 2022, the UAE provided around $85 million to address humanitarian challenges in the Horn of Africa and to support humanitarian operations in Ethiopia, in coordination with the Fund for Famine Relief. 
Dr. Bakr noted that the UAE’s active humanitarian presence in Africa embodies the steadfast values and principles that characterise the country’s foreign policy. Humanitarian work is a fundamental pillar of this policy, reflected in the famous quote from President His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan: “The UAE will remain a symbol of aid and assistance in times of need and a source of inspiration in humanitarian work.”
Dr. Bakr commended the UAE’s commitment to supporting Africa in addressing the repercussions of climate change, which have exacerbated humanitarian situations in many African countries. In this regard, the UAE’s ongoing initiatives to deliver aid to those affected by drought in Somalia and other African nations are significant. The UAE is currently implementing various humanitarian and development projects in Somalia. It has established air and sea bridges to deliver thousands of tonnes of food aid to drought-affected individuals. The seventh aid ship from the UAE arrived in March of last year, which have reached various Somali ports including Mogadishu, Kismayo, Bosaso, and Berbera. Over the past decade, the UAE has executed numerous development projects in Somalia, including the construction of schools and health centres. Among the projects is the Sheikh Zayed Hospital in the Shingani district of Mogadishu, which provides free medical services to around 300 individuals from underprivileged families daily. 
Dr. Mokhtar El-Gebashi, a political analyst, researcher, and Deputy Head of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, elucidated that Africans view the UAE as an important and vital “humanitarian partner” that is consistently by their side during times of difficulty and crises to extend a helping hand.
Furthermore, Uganda, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have received various forms of support from the UAE, whether in the humanitarian or relief sphere. In July of the past year, the Sharjah Charity International inaugurated a charitable complex spanning 464 square metres in the Mirmbi region of Uganda. The complex includes a mosque, a school, student housing, a medical clinic, a commercial outlet, and a water well. Additionally, aid packages were distributed in several remote villages, including clothing, sewing machines for productive families, food supplies, and medical equipment for the visually impaired. 
The UAE was among the first countries to swiftly send tonnes of humanitarian aid to Chad in October 2022 to provide relief for several areas affected by floods, meeting essential needs for over 442,000 affected individuals. According to official estimates, the total value of UAE assistance to Chad between 2017 and 2021 amounted to $27 million. Moreover, the UAE was among the first countries to respond to the distress calls from the Democratic Republic of Congo after the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo volcano in June 2021, which created a humanitarian catastrophe, displacing around 450,000 people. The UAE dispatched aid-laden planes with the necessary relief materials for shelter. El-Gebashi noted the importance of the UAE’s support for Africa in development projects, particularly the “Etihad 7” Programme, which aims to secure funding for renewable energy projects in Africa in order to provide clean electricity to approximately 100 million people by 2035.

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