Organisers happy as flood telethon raises Dh85m

Pakistan flood victims fell almost Dh15 million short of its Dh100m target when it drew to a close last night.

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ABU DHABI // Despite being extended by three days, a national telethon to raise cash for Pakistan flood victims fell almost Dh15 million short of its Dh100m target, when it drew to a close last night. The Government-sponsored appeal totalled Dh85.66m when the telephone lines shut at 10.30pm. "We are happy with more than 85 million," said Abdulraheem al Bateeh, the director of news at Abu Dhabi TV, part of the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which owns The National. "We were expecting from 90 to 100 but 85 is OK with us, especially since this comes during the holy month."

The project, called Awnkum, which means "your help" in Arabic, was organised by the UAE's Red Crescent Authority on the directive of Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE. The campaign, which kicked off last Wednesday, was originally scheduled to run for three days. It was extended on Friday - when the tally stood at Dh72m - in an effort to reach the target sum. It will not be extended again, but an ad campaign for UAE Red Crescent donations will continue.

"Whether there will be another telethon soon is up to the government and the Red Crescent to decide," Mr al Bateeh said. The telethon aired on more than 10 channels, including Abu Dhabi al Emarat, National Geographic Abu Dhabi, Sama Dubai, and Sharjah TV. According to Mr al Bateeh, additional funds could have been raised had the telethon aired for a longer period of time each day. "Right after we went off air yesterday, the total increased from 77 million to more than 79, which means we should give more time [each night] for the telethon next time, one hour is not enough," he said.

A number of celebrities, diplomats and clerics from across the region lent their support to the fund raising effort. The Lebanese singer Carol Smaha and the Lebanese actress Jumana Murad made appearances this week. Last night's telethon featured the Emirati singer Hussein al Jasmi, the Syrian actor Jamal Suliman and Ahmed Shabeeb Al-Dhaheri, the first deputy speaker of the FNC. During last night's fund raiser Mr al Jasmi announced plans for a benefit concert for the children of Pakistan.

Donors from across the country, including a 12-year-old boy who phoned with a Dh40,000 pledge, called in their support over the course of the six-day campaign. The largest donation of the appeal was Dh15m contributed by Dubai Islamic Bank, while last night's biggest pledge, of Dh2m, came from Adnoc. Over the course of the campaign, the largest single donations of Dh5m each came from Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the widow of Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE, Darwish bin Ahmed and Sons Group, an Emirati company, and the Al Fahim Group, said Mr al Bateeh.

The UAE is sending between six and nine aid planes a day to Pakistan, according to news reports, and more than 180 tonnes of aid has already been delivered. It is has also launched a Dh100,000 vaccination programme for women and children and is sending teams of medics to the region. * with additional reporting by Haneen Dajani