UNHCR Sets up $255m COVID-19 Fund for IDPs, Refuges

  • Group commends Lagos approach to pandemic

Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has established a $255 million appeal fund to urgently support its preparedness and response to the outbreaks of COVID-19 among the vulnerable worldwide.

In the same spirit, the Movement for a Better Lagos has commended the approach of the Lagos State Government to containing the pandemic, observing that the approach had contained its spread to the vulnerable communities in the state.

UNCHR’s Senior Adviser, Mr. Khaled Khalifa explained the significance of the fund at the unveiling of the agency’s 2020 Islamic Philanthropy Report in Qatar with emphasis on countries where UNHCR operates across the globe.

Khalifa, also UNCHR’s Regional Representative of the UNHCR to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), disclosed that since its establishment in 2019, over one million people had benefitted from the Refugee Zakat Fund (RZF) globally.

He said: “In countries where UNHCR operates, COVID-19 is an emergency on top of an emergency. Since its inception in 2019, the fund has been deployed to assist over one million vulnerable beneficiaries worldwide.”

Faced with the urgent push to curb the risk and lessen the impact of COVID-19 outbreaks in vulnerable communities, UNCHR’s senior adviser said a $255 million appeal fund “has been set up to support UNHCR’s preparedness and response in situations of forced displacement over the next nine months.

Specifically, the report cited the impact of the Refugee Zakat Fund (RZF) on the vulnerable communities worldwide, especially internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in countries where the UNCHR is currently operating.

In 2019, for instance, the report said the fund received over $43.165 million, saying the Thani Bin Abdullah Bin Thani Al-Thani Humanitarian Fund donated over $35 million to the fund, which helped support 164,696 vulnerable families (875,000 individuals).
The report revealed that other donations to the UNHCR Refugee Zakat Fund “are from individuals, institutional partners and philanthropists, primarily from the Middlesex East and North Africa (MENA).

“These donations have helped provide life-saving assistance to a total of 191,497 vulnerable families and 1,025,014 refugees and internally displaced persons in Bangladesh, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia and Mauritania.”

Khalifa, thus, appreciated all donors to the RZF, which he said, had been deployed to supports over 1 million needy and displaced persons worldwide.
He said: “In view of the current global health situation, more refugees will require our humanitarian assistance, and Zakat and Islamic philanthropy can have a significant impact in responding to these needs.”
Buttressing Khalifa’s appeal, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi lamented the grim situation of refugees and displaced persons worldwide.
Grandi said: “Imagine trying to cope with the global health crisis with no access to soap and water to wash your hands. No hope of isolating yourself because of overcrowded conditions.

“No shelter to stay safely inside. Imagine having to do this after already having been forced by war to flee your home and your family. This is the tragic reality today for far too many refugees and displaced families around the world.”

Speaking on the plight of the vulnerable, the founder of Thani Bin Abdullah Bin Thani Al-Thani Humanitarian Fund, Sheikh Thani Bin Abdullah said displaced communities “are among the most vulnerable populations that require close and strategic attention from philanthropists wanting to make a serious impact on the state of the globe.”

He added that the Muslim world “has a historic opportunity to demonstrate the significant role of Islamic social finance, and particularly Zakat in humanitarian assistance, through extending a helping hand to the world’s displaced populations, while realising key Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Refugee Zakat Fund was launched by UNHCR in 2019, as a trusted, compliant and effective distributor harnessing the power of Zakat to transform the lives of the most vulnerable refugee and IDPs, through partnerships and collaboration with Zakat institutions, foundations and philanthropists.

The fund was established upon five Islamic principles and is subject to strict governance, ensuring utmost transparency at every step from donation to provision of assistance.

In a statement by its National President, Mr. Ibrahim Ekundina, the Movement for a Better Lagos commended the governor for adopting an unconventional approach to the fight against the pandemic,

He said: “Having studied his approach to containing the disease, we are convinced that his method of handling the dreaded monster has saved the state as well as the whole nation from recording more fatalities than what we are having now.”

He said the pandemic “is an unconventional war unleashed on the whole world and the way Sanwo-Olu is tackling it with unconventional methods is a testimony of preparedness for eventuality by a well organised administrator.

“Anything that affects Lagos will rob on the whole country and beyond. This is so because of its location as a major entry point to Nigeria. The governor deserves more support to fight and win the monster for the benefit of all.

“Sanwo-Olu’s emergency plans beforehand prevented the migrant disease from travelling fast into the hinterland, wondering, what could have happened to the country if he has not weakened its movement from the point of entry.

“The governor’s performance must have informed the assessment of the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the United Nation (UN), that Lagos has done well in the handling of the monster known as COVID-19,” Ekundina said.