UAE launches winter aid programme for Syrian refugees

Assistance includes distributing considerable quantities of food and health parcels, winter clothes and shelter materials

Syrian refugee children walk between tents in mud from a heavy rain at a refugee camp in the town of Bar Elias, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Lebanon has seen unusually heavy rainfall this year, leaving tens of thousands of refugees in informal tented settlements struggling to deal with water and mud seeping into their tents. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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The UAE committed Thursday to providing life-saving winter assistance to Syrian refugees displaced in five countries, allocating over $4 million to assist those in need during the coldest months.

The aid programme launched by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), will assist millions of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Greece and Egypt.

As the refugee crisis continues to worsen while funds steadily shrink, the aid will provide a much-needed lifeline to those who have fled the violent conflict that broke out in Syria in 2011.

Sheikh Hamdan, who coordinated the participation of ERC’s volunteers, said that the UAE is prioritising aid to Syrian refugees as per the directives of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

He added that the UAE’s initiative is in line with the international efforts to ease the suffering of refugees and improve their humanitarian conditions.

The UN estimates that more than 5.6 million refugees from Syria residing in neighbouring countries lack livelihood opportunities and depend on emergency food assistance. Due to the protracted nature of the crisis, Syrian refugees and host communities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to food insecurity and deteriorating living conditions.

Additionally, more than 11 million people inside Syria are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

Despite that, fundraising targets continue to fall short. In 2018, humanitarian organisations asked donors for $5.5 billion to support roughly 5.5 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and 4 million nationals from hosts countries. Halfway through the year, less than 22% of that funding had been collected.

The ERC’s efforts include distributing considerable quantities of food and health parcels, winter clothes, heating equipment, blankets, children’s supplies, and shelter materials.

Mohammed Ateeq Al Falahi, Secretary-General of the ERC, said that nutritious food protects refugees from the effects of winter and that the ERC prioritised the provision of food as part of its multi-stage programme that will continue throughout the winter.