It is perhaps appropriate that it was during Ramadan – traditionally a month for giving – that news emerged of a major UAE charitable organisation helping more people last year than ever before.
Dubai Opera House was the setting last week for the announcement of results of a review of the annual report from Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI). In it, the group, which includes dozens of organisations and initiatives, revealed that it collectively spent Dh1.4 billion ($381 million) in 2022, helping 102 million people in 100 countries – the largest number of beneficiaries in a single year.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who chaired the meeting of the initiative’s board of trustees, said: “Alleviating the suffering of fellow humans, regardless of their origin, ethnicity comes first and foremost, and is part of our moral duty.”
Indeed, morality has underpinned the organisation’s remarkable story, which is one that has revealed the benefit of working in a cohesive way to help as many people as possible. In 2015, MBRGI brought together dozens of charity and humanitarian institutions sponsored by Sheikh Mohammed. Since then it has raised and spent millions of dirhams in humanitarian aid, becoming one of the largest systems for relief, development and community work in the region.
Its approach has been an intelligent and insightful one. As well as encouraging a culture of giving and volunteering, and meeting struggling people’s immediate needs for food, clothing and shelter, it has also supported many education initiatives to ensure the next generation has a chance of fighting its way out of poverty. MBRGI spent Dh213 million on its knowledge and education programmes last year, helping 55.1 million people — up 6.7 million on 2021.
This combination of immediate and long-term support can be seen particularly in the One Billion Meals Campaign, which has developed an endowment system to not only feed the hungry but allow the principal sum to grow, meaning that vital aid can be delivered in a sustainable way. The campaign reported on Thursday that it raised Dh750 million in 20 days, thanks to contributions from 120,000 donors including individuals, businesses and private and public organisations.
Although the numbers of people being helped in different ways is new, the tradition of humanitarianism in the UAE is not. Under the rule of the Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the country’s humanitarian and development aid totalled more than Dh90.5 billion, benefitting more than 117 countries. The long-lasting impact of this work can be seen in the large number of hospitals, schools, universities and cultural centres around the world that bear Sheikh Zayed’s name, such as the Zayed Centre for Research in Rare Diseases in Children in London and the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Centre in the Louvre, Paris.
As a fundraiser, organiser and tool for social solidarity, the organisation has made its mark. By establishing practical and targeted ways to help those in need, it is redefining how charity can help people in the long term. Ramadan may last for one month, but the efforts of thousands of donors, organisers and volunteers will last much longer.