From UAE to the world: Vital lifelines for fighting COVID-19

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Dubai: Even as the world scrambles to respond to the new coronavirus pandemic, the UAE has once again emerged as the global leader in rushing humanitarian aid and critical medical supplies during unprecedented crisis — thereby safeguarding millions of frontline health care workers and people around the globe.

From China, Italy and the UK to Ukraine, Croatia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria several other nations, the list of countries and regions receiving UAE’s generous aid during the pandemic is long and growing, bearing testimony to why the UAE has consistently topped the global rankings of being the largest donor of aid and humanitarian assistance for the past several years.

The nature and size of the UAE’s response has been as varied as the need of countries and the evolving situation: from setting up the Emirates Humanitarian City to repatriate scores of stranded people from Wuhan and undertaking the Home of Humanity initiative to sending tonnes of medical masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPEs) to health workers in multiple countries to setting up the NHS Nightingale field hospital in the UK.

The UAE sent two aid plane carrying critical medical supplies to Iran
Image Credit: WAM

In the process, the UAE has provided nearly 200 tonnes of aid directly supporting more than 150,000 medical professionals around the world, and thereby helping millions of others with the availability of preventive medical gear.

The World Health Organisation — with whom the UAE has collaborated to deliver essential coronavirus aid to countries around the world — heaped praise on the UAE and its leadership for it exceptional role in the COVID-19 global response. “Thanks #UAE and @MohamedBinZayed for your continuing support to the #COVID19 response … Solidarity among international communities is of the utmost necessity,” WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted last month after the UAE sent two aid aircraft to Iran to support the fight against the pandemic.

The UAE’s generous assistance to other countries battling the crippling outbreak is also in line with the affirmations of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who tweeted last week: “The world has long been questioning where the true power lies. Does economy drive politics or the other way around? The coronavirus spread has shown that health care is the main power that shapes the economy and politics at a time when a disease brought nations to a standstill”.

The UAE’s solidarity stems in large part from its traditional generosity for humanity that has been a pillar of the nation’s founding principles — and also from its relentless focus on alleviating global crises irrespective of the policies and positions of beneficiaries. As outlined in its Foreign Aid Strategy 2017-2021, the UAE “seeks to establish a new approach based on providing assistance through developmental projects that benefit the beneficiary countries. The UAE’s wise leadership decided on a clear approach which does not link humanitarian aid with the policies of the beneficiary countries.” Thanks to the strategy, the UAE has emerged as the world’s largest donor of official development aid relative to its national income for the past several years — as acknowledged by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

As the global number of coronavirus cases soar beyond 1.6 million, here is a snapshot of what the UAE has done so far in delivering essential medical supplies and humanitarian relief to various countries since the COVID-19 outbreak started, arranged in alphabetical order:


The UAE has sent an urgent medical aid shipment to Afghanistan that contains 20,000 testing units and equipment to examine thousands of people.


Emirates flew a consignment of 500,000 COVID-19 test kits from China to Sao Paulo on April 1 to help Brazil with the COVID-19 battle — the first of two special Emirates SkyCargo charters carrying medical supplies to Brazil.


215 individuals from neighbouring and friendly countries of the UAE were evacuated from Hubei, China to the UAE’s Humanitarian City
Image Credit: WAM

The UAE sent several cargo planes carrying tonnes of medical supplies and relief material during the initial stages of the outbreak to China, including to Hubei province — the epicentre of the outbreak in China. It also successfully airlifted 215 Arab nationals who were stranded in Hubei — and brought them safely to the Emirates Humanitarian City in Abu Dhabi as part of its Home of Humanity initiative in cooperation with the Chinese government. The 215 people — from countries that include Syria, Iraq, Mauritania, Sudan, Brazil, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan — were flown to the UAE capital in a plane equipped with medical facilities. The passengers were welcomed to the UAE with a personal message by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces: “We recognise that it is difficult to leave a place that was a safe home to you, particularly when you are leaving it because of an unexpected crisis to go to a new land where you don’t know anyone. For that reason we wanted to welcome you personally to the Emirates. We want you to rest assured that you are among friends and family and you are a dear and honoured guest.”


A UAE aid plane carrying 10 metric tonnes of medical supplies was dispatched to Colombia
Image Credit: WAM

A UAE aid plane carrying 10 metric tons of medical supplies was dispatched to Colombia to assist the country in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, benefiting more than 10,000 health care workers. “The delivery of aid by the UAE comes in furtherance of our nation’s belief in providing critical assistance where needed and demonstrating solidarity with those facing unprecedented challenges such as the one the world is now witnessing with COVID-19,” said Salem Rashid Al Owais, UAE Ambassador to Colombia. The aid plane also succeeded in repatriating 63 Colombian citizens from the UAE as a result of coordination between Emirati and Colombian authorities to ensure their safe return.


The UAE has donated 11.5 tonnes of medical equipment, including face masks, to Croatia following its recent devastating earthquake described as the strongest to strike the country in 140 years. The Croatian government cancelled a deal to buy protective masks worth $2.7 million following the UAE’s generous donation.


The UAE donated 11 tonnes of medical supplies to Greece on March 26, consisting mostly of special coveralls for medical protection, medical gloves, and sanitisers. The consignment was flown via a special Etihad Airways flight. The aid materials have been distributed to hospitals around Greece to help the fight against coronavirus. In a statement, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “The friendship and trust we share with the United Arab Emirates are dear, and especially during these difficult times the solidarity of our allies is evident — also shown through the delivery of valuable medical supplies today.”


The UAE sent two aid planes carrying critical medical supplies to Iran
Image Credit: WAM

The UAE has dispatched two urgent relief planes carrying on-board 32 tonnes of medical supplies and relief equipment to support Iran’s ongoing efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus. On March 3, in collaboration with the WHO, the UAE sent an Air Force aircraft carrying 7.5 tonnes of medical supplies, as well as five WHO experts, to Iran. In the second supply of medical equipment to Iran on March 17, the UAE sent more than 32 tonnes of critical medical supplies, including gloves and surgical masks, as well as other protective equipment, that aims to help 15,000 health care workers and 100,000 people. In a March 15 call with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, affirmed the UAE’s support to the Iranian people as they manage this crisis. “The UAE’s support to Iran reflects the humanitarian principles on which our county was founded. Providing assistance to save the lives of those in distress is essential to serve the common human interest,” Reem Bint Ebrahim Al Hashemi, Minister of State for International Cooperation Affairs, said.


A UAE aid plane carrying 10 tonnes of medical supplies dispatched to Italy
Image Credit: WAM

A UAE plane carrying 10 tonnes of medical supplies that was dispatched provide urgent assistance to more than 10,000 health care professionals. “Since its founding as a nation, the UAE has committed to extending assistance to countries and peoples in distress, and the COVID-19 crisis has affirmed the effectiveness of this approach. This is evidenced by efforts to help a number of countries to which the pandemic has spread, reflecting that the UAE humanitarian approach prioritises support for the leadership and people of countries experiencing challenges,” Omar Obaid Al Shamsi, UAE Ambassador to Italy, told WAM. Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio noted that the assistance granted by the UAE represents critical assistance to Italy’s doctors, nurses, and medical staff and would enable thousands of Italians to protect themselves and work to save the lives of others. “We are currently experiencing a phase that can only be described as war against an invisible enemy waged by our medical personnel, and the personal protective equipment provided by the UAE to Italy is our weapon in this battle. We consider this gesture to embody solidarity in practice and on-ground assistance. Italy will never forget the countries that supported it during this difficult period, which is not only a health crisis but an economic and community one as well,” Di Maio said, thanking the UAE government.


A UAE aid plane carrying approximately 13 tonnes of medical supplies to Kazakhstan
Image Credit: Supplied

Approximately 13 tonnes of medical supplies that was dispatched to Kazakhstan by the UAE will benefit more than 10,000 health care professionals. “The UAE is committed to extending support to countries affected by the COVID-19 crisis in recognition that multilateral cooperation is essential to the international community overcoming this humanitarian crisis,” Dr Mohammad Ahmed bin Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Ambassador to Kazakhstan, told WAM, noting that the assistance would enable medical staff to safely perform their professional duties in combating the virus’ spread.


The UAE sent tonnes of medical equipment and supplies to Kuala Lumpur on March 29, and Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and UAE Ambassador to Malaysia Khalid Al Ghaith came together to share best practices in addressing the pandemic.


The UAE has dispatched two batches of aid for Pakistan, with the second lot comprising 11 tons of medical supplies, to fight the pandemic. Among the supplies are 20,000 Covid-19 test kits, 500,000 gloves, 30,000 protective gowns and face masks and 10,000 hand sanitisers. According to Hamad Al Za’abi, the UAE Ambassador to Pakistan, the mission confirmed the commitment of the UAE leadership to provide vital support to the people of Pakistan during exceptional circumstances. “Efforts to provide support and assistance to the people of Pakistan has been part of the country’s foreign policy dating back to Shaikh Zayed, the Founding Father, and continued during the leadership of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” Al Zaabi said.


The UAE has donated a total of 10 tonnes of equipment to Belgrade on March 29, with the first tranche comprising 13,750 protective suits, 15,000 hospital suits, 500,000 gloves, 30,000 shoe protectors, 20,000 masks, and 6,000 sanitisers. Life-saving ventilators are scheduled to be delivered as part of the next consignment.


The UAE has donated 11 tons of medical supplies to the Seychelles government to assist their fight against COVID-19. The humanitarian aid includes coveralls, isolation gowns, gloves, masks, and other medical items. The shipment from the UAE arrived on March 25.


The UAE has reached out to help Syria battle the coronavirus pandemic. In a phone call with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed told him that both countries needed to “place humanitarian solidarity over political issues during this common challenge we are all facing.” Syria “will not be left alone during these delicate and critical circumstances,” Shaikh Mohammad told Al Assad.


UAE aid plane carrying 11 metric tons of medical supplies dispatched to Ukraine
Image Credit: WAM

A UAE aid aircraft carrying 11 metric tons of medical supplies that was dispatched to Ukraine will benefit more than 10,000 health care professionals. “This provision of aid by the UAE comes as a gesture of solidarity with countries seeking to bolster their fight against COVID-19. The UAE stands with the leadership and people of Ukraine during this challenging moment that the international community must face as a united front,” Salem Ahmed Al Ka’abi, UAE Ambassador to Ukraine, said in comments to WAM on the occasion. The aid plane also successfully repatriated 113 Ukrainian citizens from the UAE as a result of coordination between UAE and Ukrainian authorities to ensure their safe return.


The Excel London events space transforms into Nightingale Hospital
Image Credit: AFP

The UAE has successfully turned ExCeL London — the British capital’s largest venue for exhibitions and conferences — into an emergency field hospital for the treatment of patients infected with COVID-19. Named the NHS Nightingale Hospital, the new facility has a capacity of 4,000 beds and is on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 as Britain grapples with the mounting public health emergency posed by the virus. ExCel London events space is wholly owned by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, and UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new NHS Nightingale hospital would be vital to efforts to contain the pandemic.


Apart from providing humanitarian assistance, the UAE government worked with the US Mission to the UAE to repatriate at least 25 American citizens who were unable to travel due to the coronavirus outbreak. The UAE Embassy in Washington was an initial donor to Children’s National Hospital, which launched DC’s first drive-up/walk-up COVID-19 testing location for children and young patients. The UAE is also providing charitable support to Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, which has been distributing 50,000 packaged fresh meals to communities in need. The UAE Embassy is also supporting Feed the Fight, an organisation distributing meals to health care workers and first responders, and Good Food Markets, which is providing groceries to Washington, DC residents in need.

In addition, the UAE has offered to facilitate the repatriation of US citizens, if necessary, through the US customs pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport. This includes making the airport available to any US airlines that may want to schedule special flights to or from the US.

UAE’s tradition of helping humanity goes back by decades

  • Well before the coronavirus outbreak became a pandemic and the UAE began rushing essential aid to dozens of countries around the world, the country’s leadership recognised the need to give priority to humanitarian missions during conflicts, natural disasters and medical emergencies around the world.
  • In 2018, the UAE was named the world’s largest donor of development assistance in proportion to its gross national income for the fifth year running, according to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development. The UAE exceeded the United Nations’ target of 0.7 per cent official development assistance in proportion to its GNI ratio by donating Dh19.32 billion.
  • In Dubai, the International Humanitarian City is a global hub for humanitarian emergency response. The IHC hosts nine United Nations agencies — including the United Nations Refugee Agency — and more than 85 NGOs and commercial entities in 127,000 square metres of space.
  • Way back in 2010, the UAE has become the first non-Western nation in the global Top 10 humanitarian aid donors per head of population. Donations of $138.9 million in 2009, an average of $30.30 (Dh111.28) per person, put the country in seventh place.
  • The UAE’s founding father Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan was among the strongest advocates of humanitarian assistance for nations in need, and his death anniversary on Ramadan 19 is observed as the International Humanitarian Day every year.

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