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UNHCR launches global zakat platform to help Syrian refugees

Organisation partners with Abu Dhabi based Tabah Foundation with goal of assisting 60,000 families

Abu Dhabi: With an aim to financially aid 60,000 Syrian refugee families living in Jordan and Lebanon, the UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – in partnership with Tabah Foundation announced on Tuesday the launching of its global zakat platform, with the donated money going straight to the families in need.

Leading Islamic scholars and institutions have lent their backing to the new initiative, including Dr Shaikh Ali Jumaa, former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, the president of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, and the Senior Scholars’ Council of Morocco. As part of the new programme, each family signed up will receive a direct cash assistance of $175 (Dh842.3) to help them cover their monthly living expenses.

“In today’s world no mission is more important and more noble than finding ways to respond better to the burgeoning humanitarian emergencies that surround us. [Our goal] is to bring life saving aid more quickly and more efficiently, and to increase resources available to assist the victims of conflict and persecution,” said Tobi Harward, head of UNHCR office in the UAE, speaking on the launch of the zakat platform.

“Governments, philanthropists, foundations, the private sector, UN agencies and the general public have a shared responsibility to come together in the service of humanity. [The] zakat initiative – the outcome of our partnership with Tabah Foundation – is a wonderful and noble example of this,” he added.

Houssam Chahine, head of private sector partnerships for the UNHCR in the Mena region, said the direct cash assistance would give families more spending freedom and would cover up to 50 percent of their expenses.

“All families will receive the same amount of money which is fixed at $175 a month. That money will help them pay for things like their rent, some of their secondary healthcare costs and food expenses.

“It’s not a very large amount of money but it can still provide a very big help to these families, meeting around 30 to 50 per cent of their expense needs. In Jordan, only 20 per cent of refugees live in refugee camps, and in Lebanon there are no refugee camps for Syrians, and so most of these refugees are living in urban areas having to face daily expenses like everybody else. This makes it very important to give them some type of financial assistance,” he added.

Chahine said the programme would also be transparent in how it uses the donations, and emphasised that all of the money would be given to the families.

“UNHCR ensures 100 per cent of zakat contributions go directly to eligible refugees under the extreme poverty line, with no money taken off for overheads.

The new global platform makes fulfilling zakat obligations fast and simple for those wishing to help refugee families with their zakat, until these families become self-reliant.

“There is going to be an auditing process, Tabah Foundation will be involved with, making sure the money is being used right. We are also going to have quarterly reports published online so the public and those who have donated can see where the money is going,” Chahine added.

Nour Al Deen Harthi, chief executive officer of Tabah Foundation, said the foundation hoped to make the programme a long term sustainable one, calling it a lifeline for refugees.

“Our co-operation with UNHCR over the zakat initiative is built on our two organisations’ shared values and our mission to help humanity. Through this partnership, we provide UNHCR with technical expertise and knowledge that ensure the transparency and sustainability of this commendable Zakat initiative.

“There are many refugee families in need in the region, and the zakat initiative comes as a lifeline for the most vulnerable of them,” Harthi added. The official zakat platform website is: zakat.unhcr.org

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