Coronavirus: UAE volunteers launch scheme to help labourers

Organisers aim to provide free meals and hygiene products to more than 4,000 workers

Paula Jane Cox, Natali Soroka, Dinu Bors, and Mahkia Khayatzadeh.

A team of volunteers are coming together to launch a health campaign to protect and inform the men working in Al Jerf 2 in Ajman. They are gathering and suppling  “health boxes” to be distributed into the camps which hold almost 4500 workers in Ajman alone. They hope this initiative will soon grow into all Emirates.

(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

Reporter: RUBA HAZA
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A group of volunteers aim to provide more than 4,000 labourers in Ajman with regular free meals.

Organisers said the coronavirus pandemic meant some workers had limited access to hygiene products and food.

In the coming month, teams from the emirate will distribute basic health kits and other essentials to those in need.

Warehouse space to store the stock has already been secured and supply lines set up.

“Due to the pandemic we had to cancel a volunteer trip to Zanzibar, so we have focused our efforts closer to home,” said Paula Jane Cox, director of the board of trustees at the CR Hope Foundation.

Due to the current situation, many cannot afford to buy meals and do not have the money to buy hygiene products to stay safe

“Now, lower-income groups will be suffering in varied ways such as lack of work and income. No work often means no access to food.”

The CR Hope Foundation was established to help provide children in Tanzania, East Africa, with a better education.

But staff in the UAE have teamed up with Food-ATM and the Rotary Club of Jumeirah to launch the Ajman initiative.

Food-ATM provides free meals to “less privileged” groups in the Emirates, while the Rotary Club of Jumeirah is part of a global humanitarian organisation.

“Food-ATM is being pushed to their maximum capabilities in terms of money for food supplies so we decided to step up, launch this initiative and send calls for help,” Ms Cox said.

“We have secured extra warehouse space and a team ready to start supplying the higher volumes this campaign will bring.

“With the support of the Rotary Club of Jumeirah and suppliers, the campaign is ready to go.”

Every day for the next 30 days, food boxes containing two meals each, as well hand sanitiser and soap, will be distributed to businesses in Ajman’s industrial area.

Food ready for delivery. Courtesy: CR Hope Foundation     

The same supplies will also be delivered to labour camps in the emirate for workers living there.

The health kits each cost Dh5 to put together while the food parcels are worth about Dh15.

“We hope that Ajman be the first emirate to run this initiative and that it will then extend into other emirates as well,” Ms Cox said.

Ayesha Khan, the founder of Food-ATM, said the scheme would ensure the health and safety of thousands of labourers.

“When the CR Hope Foundation contacted me to arrange logistics for this much-needed initiative I was extremely happy that someone was thinking about the workers here in Ajman,” she said.

“Due to the current situation, many cannot afford to buy meals and do not have the money to buy hygiene products to stay safe.

“We really have no resources at this stage and it is so kind of the Rotary Club of Jumeirah and CR Hope Foundation to step up.

“There are inconsistent supply issues across suppliers that we are aiming to control, but as a minimum, the health kit will include wipes, soap and sanitiser that will help workers protect themselves from the virus.

“The companies [employing the labourers] do think about their people but no one has planned for a day when work might suddenly stop.

“Workers get paid on a daily basis. Depending on the workflow, some may get paid but others won’t.”