UAE aid for 'forgotten people' in Egypt crisis

Five-strong assistance team already at work after Sheikh Khalifa directs charity to provide food, medicines and educational resources.

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ABU DHABI // A UAE campaign to help "the forgotten people" of Egypt swung into action yesterday.

Egypt in our Hearts, set up by the Red Crescent on the orders of the President, Sheikh Khalifa, will provide aid to thousands of Egyptians suffering after more than two years of political turmoil.

The aid will mainly come in the form of food, medicines and educational assistance. A five-strong team is already in Egypt to begin work.

"The President gave us the orders and now we have started to see what is needed," said Naema Al Mihiri, deputy general secretary for relief and development at the Red Crescent.

The operation will be similar to that in Jordan, where the Red Crescent helps refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria: when one team returns home, another is ready to take its place. The UAE Embassy in Egypt will help to direct the work.

Ms Al Mihiri said the Red Crescent wanted to reach out to "the forgotten people", after a year of Islamist rule, the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood and the establishment of an interim government.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler's Representative in Al Gharbia and head of the Red Crescent, said the campaign illustrated the depth of the relationship between the two countries.

Maj Gen Nasser Al Nuaimi, the secretary general of the Ministry of Interior, said the campaign was "an embodiment of our deep, enduring ties with our Egyptian brothers, and the long history and fraternity we share".

"This campaign reflects our commitment to our vision of a union of Arab nations," Gen Al Nuaimi said. "We hope we can help the Egyptian people persevere over these troubled times, specifically, in this month of forgiveness, joy and charity. In this blessed time, we cannot forget those who have contributed to our culture, our history and society and have been, and will always be, a constant ally."

The Red Crescent says people can donate through their bank account or by texting the word "Egypt" to selected numbers. It will be using its own existing funds as well as new donations.

Tamer Mansour, Egypt's ambassador to the UAE, expressed his gratitude. He said the campaign embodied a "genuine and sincere demonstration of Arab solidarity in times of distress", and the people of Egypt welcomed a campaign that "confirmed the truth that the people of the UAE hold great feelings of love and affection for Egypt".

Ms Al Mihiri said the priority was to evaluate what was needed on the ground.

"We will reach all places, not just the big cities," she said. "Our priority will be delivering food, health, education. These days we are distributing 28,000 food packages."

Hospitals will be stocked with medical equipment and supplies, schools and mosques will be repaired and wells will be built, she said.

Ms Al Mihiri said Egypt would also benefit from the Clothe One Million Children campaign launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

The UAE Embassy in Egypt said more than 100,000 items of clothing would be handed out to children.

The director general of the Women's Union, Noura Al Suwaidi, said Egypt had played a leading role in the empowerment of women and women's rights in the UAE.

"Egypt is etched in our hearts and memories," she said. "We cannot forget its role and support to the UAE in education and health and, most close to my heart, women's rights.

"The Arab Women's Organisation, of which the UAE is a member, is headquartered in Egypt. The Egyptians have taken the first steps and launched countless initiatives for the empowerment of Arab women. We have a long history of love and cooperation with Egypt. The least we can do is support them in these difficult times."

Dr Suliman Al Jassim, the vice president of Zayed University, said the UAE's ties with Egypt went back as far as the establishment of the UAE.

"Egypt is the heart of the Arab world. During the establishment of the UAE, the late President, Sheikh Zayed, depended heavily on Egyptians for their expertise in engineering, medicine, education and various other fields," he said.

"The initiative … is a symbol of how the late Sheikh Zayed and the people of the UAE feel towards Egypt - love, brotherhood and respect."