The United Arab Emirates says it has stepped up to provide hundreds of tons of medical and food aid, support for over 523,000 health workers, and essential logistical assistance to aid agencies since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
On May 4, UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation Reem Al Hashimy told the European Commission’s global pledging conference her country would “work tirelessly” to fight the new coronavirus.
“The UAE is already an urgent, dedicated and responsible actor in the fight against Covid-19 and will continue to work tirelessly at the forefront of the global response to this malicious and relentless threat,” Al Hashimy declared.
“Thus far, $110 million has been allocated and dispatched,” the minister added.
500 Ton Milestone
Yesterday, a seven metric ton delivery of medical supplies to Belarus in Eastern Europe pushed the UAE’s total contribution of global medical and food assistance past the 500 ton mark, the UAE Ambassador to Belarus said. As of May 12, the Gulf state has sent more than 523 metric tons of aid to 47 countries, state news agency WAM added, evidence it is keeping its COVID-19 aid promises.
“The UAE has stood firmly on the side of all countries working to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our country has sent a message of unity to the world, demonstrating that solidarity must go beyond words and extend to concrete action,” said Ambassador Ahmed Mohammed Manqoosh Alteneiji.
Today, another flight carrying 35 tons of aid, including life-saving ventilators, left Dubai for flood-ravaged Somalia, which also faces an impending coronavirus crisis. The Mogadishu-bound flight was coordinated by Dubai’s International Humanitarian City (IHC), as instructed by UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid.
The food and medical supplies will support the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) operations in the country that has been lashed by natural disaster, conflict, famine, and now COVID-19. Both UN agencies praised the UAE’s generosity and noted the importance of the IHC as a humanitarian logistics hub.
“UNHCR is proud of its strategic partnership with IHC and appreciates its significant support to UNHCR’s efforts throughout the years to respond to the humanitarian needs of refugees and displaced people worldwide,” said the head of the UNHCR office in the UAE, Nadia Jbour.
Approximately 85% of the WHO’s personal protective equipment (PPE) stocks have been distributed via the IHC in Dubai.
“Dispatching more than 160 shipments to 100 countries, WHO continues to support healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response across the globe by equipping them with emergency supplies, including personal protective equipment and laboratory diagnostics,” said the WHO’s Robert Blanchard.
“This airlift represents the generosity of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in supporting WHO efforts through airlifts and the IHC platform to the whole humanitarian community,” he added.
International Air Bridge
Last week, the UAE partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide an international air bridge that will “supply thousands of tonnes of humanitarian aid.” The UAE is one of eight countries to heed the WFP’s call for support and offer facilities to form part of a dedicated network of supply hubs, enabling WFP to fight COVID-19 and hunger worldwide.
On May 8, WFP Executive Director David Beasley welcomed the agreement tweeting, “the UAE continues to break ground in the fight against #COVID19 & hunger around the world.”
“Our new air bridge is a great example of coming together when we need it most. When WFP & the UAE join forces, we save lives,” he said.
Thanks to my good friend @MohamedBinZayed. The UAE continues to break ground in the fight against #COVID19 & hunger around the world. Our new air bridge is a great example of coming together when we need it most. When @WFP & the UAE join forces, we save lives. @MoFAICUAE @WFP_AR https://t.co/UDbqGDaOdb
— David Beasley (@WFPChief) May 8, 2020
Under the agreement, the UAE, which holds the WFP’s largest humanitarian stockpile, will provide three dedicated aircraft and personnel to keep aid flowing between Dubai and key locations in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
The UN food security agency holds grave fears that COVID-19 and regional conflicts are creating a “perfect storm” that could cause starvation for a quarter of a billion people.
“I do wish I were exaggerating, but we are really looking at what could be famines of biblical proportions in multiple countries, and especially in Africa,” Beasley told France24 in an interview on Monday.
Declining ODA Flows
Despite a 41% decrease in Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) provision in 2019, the UAE remains one of the world’s top international aid donors, particularly in terms of assistance as a percentage of global national income (GNI).
Based on the OECD’s preliminary figures for 2019, UAE development assistance declined “due to a fall in bilateral loans provided.” Nevertheless, the Gulf state still gave $2.478 billion in ODA, equivalent to 0.55% of GNI last year.
The figures demonstrate a serious reduction in the UAE’s aid efforts. It was considered the world’s top aid donor relative to national income for five consecutive years,
from 2012-2017. In 2017, UAE ODA reached 1.31% of its national income, compared to 0.55% in 2019.
The 2019 result also puts the UAE outside of the UN target of 0.7% of gross national income for international development spending for rich countries. Only five countries actually reached that target last year–Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.