Arab donors respond to Gaza crisis

Governments and charities from across the region are sending cash and relief items to support Palestinians.

As the death toll rises in the Gaza Strip, donors from across the Arab region have stood up in support of civilians caught up in the humanitarian crisis, pledging millions of dollars to aid agencies. The governments of UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have all announced funding for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, while Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, has said US$50 million will be channelled through his Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) to people in need.

Dubai’s International Humanitarian City (IHC), meanwhile, is supporting a number of aid agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), to collate and transport essential medical and food items to Egypt and Lebanon. 

The first plane, carrying 11 tonnes of mixed supplies, was taken to El Arish in the North Sinai Governorate of Egypt, where it joined a growing stockpile of aid waiting to be taken through the currently-closed Rafah border crossing into the under-siege Gaza.

“We need to be allowed to bring this food into Gaza for immediate distribution. And not just once. We need sustained access,” said Corinne Fleischer, WFP’s regional director for the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe. “The situation over there is catastrophic and our stocks inside Gaza are running out. Every day that passes pushes more and more people closer to starvation.”

"Every day that passes pushes more and more people closer to starvation"

Corinne Fleischer, WFP regional director for the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe

On October 17, an explosion killed an estimated 500 Palestinians at a Gaza City hospital crammed with patients and displaced people, the single bloodiest single incident in Gaza since Israel launched an unrelenting bombing campaign against the densely populated territory in retaliation for a deadly cross-border Hamas assault on southern Israeli communities some days earlier.

A spokesman for international medical NGO, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), whose staff were treating patients in the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City when it was hit, said: “Nothing justifies this shocking attack on a hospital and its many patients and health workers, as well as the people who sought shelter there. ​ Hospitals are not a target. ​ This bloodshed must stop.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for “ immediate humanitarian access throughout Gaza” to allow agencies to deliver fuel, food and water to everyone in need. “The health system is on the brink of collapse,” he said. 

“Morgues are overflowing; healthcare staff have been killed while on duty; and there have been attacks on health facilities,” he added. “The entire territory faces a water crisis as infrastructure has been damaged and there is no electricity to power pumps and desalination plants.”

"The health system is on the brink of collapse"

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

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The Palestinian Red Crescent is providing frontline first aid to people caught up in air strikes in Gaza. Photo: IFRC.

The scale of conflict and the number of deaths has sent shockwaves across the region, sparking a widespread outpouring of grief as well as protests in several cities. In the UAE, the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC) has launched Tarahum (compassion) for Gaza, an online appeal in partnership with the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Community Development. 

In parallel, the ERC has opened donation centres around the country for volunteers to prepare aid packages of dry food, blankets as well as baby and medical supplies. 

A number of local companies are supporting the Tarahom appeal, including E-commerce platform Noon, which has created a donation tab on its payment gateway and is offering a 20 percent discount for emergency items for direct delivery to the ERC.

Other UAE-based businesses are using their social media channels to express solidarity for the Palestinian cause and encourage customers to make donations to either the ERC appeal, or directly to NGOs such as the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), UNICEF, MSF, and others operating on the ground in Gaza.

Speaking to Philanthropy Age, PCRF's founder Steve Sosebee said: "It is impossible at this time to describe to true extent of needs for the people of Gaza, and the frustration that every relief organisation feels concerning the inability to bring in the basic necessities that children in Gaza need, including food, water, shelter, and medicine. Many are dying as a result of the lack of humanitarian aid."

In Egypt, the Egyptian Red Crescent, the Egyptian Food bank, and the Decent Life Initiative have been actively collecting donations from individuals and private sector organisations to pay for food and medical supplies for people in Gaza.  Businesses and celebrities -  including the UAE’s Majid Al Futtaim, which has pledged more than $900k to the Egyptian Red Crescent, and Liverpool footballer Mohamed Salah - are also making donations.

Regional philanthropic networks, alliances and funds are also playing a significant role in mobilising regional and international donor assistance for Gaza. 

The Arab Foundations Forum, a network of philanthropic and nonprofit organisations, has partnered with  the Asfari Foundation, a UK-based grant-making charity focusing on the Levant region, to raise funds for people in Gaza, via Palestinian nonprofit Taawon.

Meanwhile, Alfanar, the Arab region’s first venture philanthropy organisation working in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and recently Palestine, is also fundraising to raise money for its portfolio organisations in Palestine. “With an eye beyond these immediate needs, the social enterprises that we support will play a pivotal role in assisting people rebuild lives and establish some semblance of normalcy amidst the chaos,” executive director Myrna Atalla said. - PA