Decades of economic growth have
turned the United Arab Emirates into a hub for tourism,
commerce and business in the Gulf region as well as into
one of the most prosperous states in the Middle East.
New responsibilities have arrived with the rise of
prosperity and the country has in the recent years
emerged as one of the most generous donors at the
forefront of humanitarian operations in the Middle East
The UAE Red
Crescent Authority is a major channel through which the
country is helping the world’s needy populations. Al
Shindagah Magazine caught up with Mohammed Abdullah
Alhaj Al Zarooni, the recently appointed Manager of the
Dubai branch of the UAE Red Crescent, who spared a few
moments within his busy schedule to talk about his plans
for the organisation.
The UAE Red
Crescent is a member of the world’s largest group of
humanitarian non-governmental organisations – the
Red Crescent Movement, which includes societies in 178
countries with almost a hundred million employees and
The organisation focuses on providing healthcare and
disaster management in areas affected by warfare or
natural disasters and promotes volunteering as a key
Zarooni seems to know so much about the UAE Red Crescent
and talks with such conviction about it that it is hard
to believe he joined the organisation only four months
ago. It has not been an easy time for him and his team,
who have spent the last two months helping alleviate the
devastation after one of the most dramatic natural
disasters, the tsunami tidal waves which killed some
300,000 people in South East Asia.
disaster wiped out entire communities across Indonesia,
Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and the Maldives and helping
hands have been extended from many countries in the
world, including the UAE.
first day of the disaster, we were given by the
government US$2 million to donate to the affected
countries as to dedicated United Nations programmes,”
said Al Zarooni. Days later the UAE contribution towards
the badly-hit region reached US$20 million. One week
after the disaster the UAE Red Crescent sent 75 tonnes
of supplies to Sri Lanka. The organisation also sent
delegations to Indonesia and Sri Lanka to assess the
situation and draw plans for the way ahead in the
affected communities. Back in January, the delegation
170 tonnes of different relief items in cooperation with
Sri Lankan Red Cross.
ahead, according to Al Zarooni lies in reconstruction.
After days of tragedy and chaos, after the dead have
been mourned and the hungry fed, the focus is on
re-development. “We need to build schools, hospitals and
other infrastructure and buy boats for the fishermen,”
Al Zarooni says.
The UAE Red
Crescent is doing just this. Some Dhs15 million has been
allocated for re-development in three villages in the
Ampara region of Sri Lanka, where the organisation will
be overseeing the construction of 300 houses as well as
the reconstruction of four hospitals, six schools and
two orphanages, while fishermen in the affected region
will be given more than 100 boats, which will give them
back their livelihood. A similar project with a budget
of Dhs25 million will run in Indonesia.
populations affected by natural disasters such as the
tsunami in South East Asia is only one of the many
projects managed by the UAE Red Crescent. The
organisation also manages and funds the construction of
mosques, hospitals and schools in impoverished
countries, distribution of aid to needy peoples and
seasonal projects that help poor Muslims at holy times
such as Ramadan and Eid.
In the two
decades since it was created, the organisation has
launched humanitarian initiatives in more than 95
countries with the total value of its projects reaching
more than Dhs.1 billion. Only in 2003, the total cost of
overseas projects reached more that Dhs.292 million,
with Dhs.56 million going to projects and relief
operations in Palestine.
The UAE Red
Crescent has 11 overseas branches - in Gaza and Jenin in
Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Thailand, Indonesia,
Somalia, Yemen, Albania, Kosovo and Sudan. This network
is complemented by another 42 offices in UAE embassies
throughout the world.
organisation seems to have come a long way since 1983,
when it was founded. The UAE Red Crescent currently has
a network of ten branches in all regions of the country,
employs more than 100 people and has twice the number of
volunteers. In 2002, a presidential decree turned the
society into the UAE Red Crescent Authority of today,
underlying the government’s commitment to humanitarian
The UAE Red
Crescent is active within the country as well, providing
help to needy people and families without
discrimination. In 2003, the total cost of programs
executed by the organisation throughout the UAE was over
Dhs.47 million. This included providing financial
support to over twelve thousand needy families,
providing free medical assistance and supporting the
educational requirements of needy students, caring for
prisoners and supporting various activities carried out
by the country’s punishment institutions.
and disabled people are also among recipients of aid
distributed by the UAE Red Crescent and so are poor
Muslims, whom the organisation provides with the
treasured chance to perform their Haj pilgrimage. The
organisation is very active during the Ramadan and Eid,
when it gives the needy the chance to break their fast
and gives out clothes and family parcels.
many ongoing projects, the UAE Red Crescent can
accommodate volunteers of diverse backgrounds and
interests and Al Zarooni is inviting everyone to
volunteer and do their share of good. “I’d like to see
more volunteers joining in,” he says.
sponsors are also welcome, especially as the
organisation is looking for a company to finance the
building of their new Dubai headquarters. The plans for
the new facility have been drafted already and a plot of
land has been given to the organisation for free by the
Dubai government. All it will take for the project to be
complete is a socially responsible developer.
INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT MOVEMENT
The movement is composed of
several bodies – the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC), which is based in Geneva and which leads
the movement; the International Federation of Red Cross
and Red Crescent Societies, which is represents all Red
Cross and Red Crescent societies in the world and was
established to coordinate international relief
activities and promote humanitarian campaigns; and of
the 178 national societies throughout the world.
movement goes back to 1895, when Henry Dunant witnessed
the Battle of Solferino, where some 14,000 people died
or were wounded. Stunned by the carnage, Dunant stayed
in a nearby town for three days, helping the wounded
soldiers. Seven years later, Dunant published “A Memory
of Solferino” in which he described the need to create
an international network of volunteer agencies providing
medical relief in times of war.
after Dunant's book appeared, the Swiss government
sponsored an international conference of 14 countries in
Geneva. They agreed on October 29, 1863, to form the
International Red Cross. Almost one year later, on
August 22, 1864 another international conference was
summoned and it adopted the first Geneva Convention,
which became the basis for the ICRC.
On May 5,
1919, the League of Red Cross Societies was founded. The
League of Red Cross Societies changed its name in 1986
to the "International Movement of the Red Cross and the
Red Crescent" in recognition of its Muslim Red Crescent
efforts in setting up the ICRC brought him the first
Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. The ICRC was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize again in 1917 and 1944, to recognise
its activities in the two World Wars, and jointly with
the IFRCS in 1963, on the 100th anniversary of the
founding of the Movement.
has seven fundamental principles. These include:
to protect life and health and ensure respect for the
human being; to prevent and alleviate all human
- no discrimination on grounds of nationality, race,
religious beliefs, class or political opinions.
- the Movement does not take sides in hostilities, nor
engage at any time in controversies of a political,
racial, religious or ideological nature.
- a national society may work alongside its own national
governments, but must maintain its autonomy.
- relief is provided with no desire for gain or profit.
- each country may only have one national society which
is open to all, and which must carry on its work
throughout the country.
- all national societies have equal status and share
equally in their responsibilities and duties as part of
the worldwide Red Cross movement.