Charities, nonprofit organizations, and businesses are providing financial aid, distributing medical supplies, and raising awareness in unprecedented times in the Middle East in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Outlined below are some important initiatives in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Saudi Food Bank “Eta’am,” the first of its kind in the Gulf region, has helped feed over 175,000 families, some of who are in lockdown neighborhoods. Eta’am is an organization that collects quality meals with the help of regular employees and volunteers and delivers them to beneficiaries recommended by charities in the utmost of privacy. Riyadh’s Ensan Charity Organization for Orphan Care has set up a website (https://store.ensan.org.sa/) where people can make donations online. A new option to donate a “protective basket” which contains sanitizers, gloves, and masks are made available. A Madinah charitable initiative and Saudi Post have collaborated to distribute food baskets in the region amid the outbreak. The first phase includes the distribution of 15,000 food baskets, each of which comprises 16 food items, provided by Goodness of Madinah to the needy and others affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kingdom’s private sector is also contributing to the fight against coronavirus through donations to the Ministry of Health’s Health Endowment Fund. These will be used to provide the medical devices required to address the pandemic. Donations have been generous with Samba Financial Group contributing $4.4 million, Riyadh Bank $4.9 million, Al Ahli bank $9.3 million, and insurance giant Bupa Arabian contributing $20 million to the fund.
Al Baik, a leading fast-food chain with over 60 outlets across the country and almost 40 in Jeddah has started distributing 10,000 free meals of roasted chicken and fries on a daily basis to residents in some parts of Jeddah under 24-hour lockdown.
In another innovative move, the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS) is organizing an online gaming event spread over 7 weeks called “Gamers without borders by Saudi” with a $10 million prize money which will be distributed to the 12 charities dedicated to fighting the current pandemic. Over 5000 entries have already been received from gaming enthusiasts the world over. At the elite level, a share of the $10 million prize fund is up for grabs and set to be distributed to one of 12 different charities selected by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief). Tournament winners will pick the non-profit of their choice to support the heroic work charities are doing in the face of the global pandemic. Sponsorship revenue generated during the event will also be directly donated to charity. All the tournaments will be streamed live with support in eight different languages, including Arabic, English, and Mandarin.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates has launched a 10 million meals campaign to support low-income families and individuals affected by the COVID-19 outbreak across the UAE. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, MBRGI, will oversee the campaign in collaboration with the Social Solidarity Fund Against COVID-19. Donors can purchase meals online at www.10millionmeals.ae to be distributed to disadvantaged individuals and families across the country or donate via SMS(Etisalat and Du) to numbers listed on the website or make online donations to the account number listed on the website. This program has already received unprecedented support with in-kind donations like the 1 million apples donated by a Trading firm. Many other individuals and trading firms donated food items including dates, water bottles, and fruits.
‘Social Solidarity Fund Against COVID-19’ launched by the Dubai Islamic Affairs department seeks to support the fight against coronavirus in collaboration with government entities, charity associations, and members of society. Members of society to pay their Zakat donation during the blessed month in the form of support for the fight against COVID-19. As part of the above initiative, a group of accredited charitable organizations in Dubai distributed over 31,570 daily meals to underprivileged people in Naif, Satwa, Hatta, Jebel Ali, and Al Warsan areas.
The Sharjah Charity Association (SCA) distributed tablet devices to students for distance learning and food baskets for COVID-19-affected families. It is also currently providing regular meals to stranded students of other countries and laborers who are confined to their accommodations. It will help the affected families cover expenditures such as medical treatment, educational aid, rent, food, etc.
Dar Al Ber Society announced an AED19 million donation, which includes an AED12 million donation by an Emirati family business group to provide ambulances and medical equipment to the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services. As part of this donation, Dar Al Ber also contributed AED 7 million to support the health sector.
Dubai Care announced an AED 5 million donation to provide 3,200 computers to support the distance learning initiative in Dubai, in coordination with the Dubai Education Zone.
YallaGive, a Dubai-based crowdfunding platform, has collaborated with Emirates Red Crescent and plans on partnering with more charities in the near future.
Ma’an, the Authority of Social Contribution in Abu Dhabi, rolled out its ‘Together We Are Good’ program on March 22. By March 27, it had raised more than Dh100 million. The program is focused on addressing current health and economic challenges.