UAE’s charitable causes in Afghanistan will not stop

ABU DHABI // From building hospitals, schools, mosques and roads to providing education, health care and aid relief to earthquake survivors, the UAE has invested billions of dirhams to assist Afghanistan in its development.

Most charity organisations, such as the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, said they would continue their work in the country, despite Tuesday’s attack in Kandahar.

“What happened is really sad because these are people who work in the humanitarian sector and help the needy,” said Ahmed Al Dhaheri, the foundation’s director and former member of the Federal National Council.

“It’s unimaginable that when you are coming to help a community, somebody comes out of nowhere and wishes ill on it so it does not develop further.”

He said work would continue in Afghanistan because it was the UAE’s responsibility. “We will continue to believe in humanitarian values,” Mr Al Dhaheri said. “We are still there and we hope others will understand that Afghanistan needs help, and to allow whoever can help to contribute to bettering the country.”

The foundation has been operating in Afghanistan since 1979. Last May, it inaugurated the Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Kabul. It also provided relief, educational and health programmes.

One of its major projects is the Sheikha Fatima bint Mohammed bin Zayed Initiative, launched in 2010 to empower Afghan women and provide forums for them to showcase their hand-woven carpets.

“The UAE needs more support from regional countries to [achieve] more development,” Mr Al Dhaheri said.

“The UAE is playing its role but other countries in the region need to continue their support, and surrounding countries should open up their borders for human­itarian assistance or any other work that will benefit long-term development.”

One of the victims of the ­attack, Mohammed Ali Al Bastaki, was in charge of the Khalifa Foundation’s Afghanistan projects.

“He was one of the founders of the Khalifa Humanitarian Foundation and he was a man of ethics and an experienced manager,” said Mohammed Al Khouri, the foundation’s director general. “He had a great ability for action and generosity. It was a despicable terrorist act that represents ignorance, degeneration and backwardness that we seek to eliminate through our support of education and knowledge.”

He said that the attack only strengthened the foundation’s resolve to continue giving.

The foundation has a history of charitable work in Afghanistan, including aid distributed to more than 1,000 Afghan families in 2010 and food given to 1,500 individuals and 500 families the following year.

In 2013, the foundation sent four shipments to Helmand province, in cooperation with the embassy, and other aid to Kabul orphanages. It also carried out a nutrition survey that helped to reduce malnutrition among women and children, reported Wam, the state news agency.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of Emirates Red Crescent, and the chairman of its board, Dr Hamdan Al Mazrouei, mourned the humanitarian workers.

Sheikh Hamdan expressed pride at Emiratis’ charitable work in Afghanistan and said the UAE would continue to provide assistance to Afghans and others in need. The Red Crescent has helped Afghanistan by building schools, hospitals, healthcare centres, homes and orphanages, and will continue to do so, said Dr Al Mazrouei.

The Emirates Human Rights Association condemned the terrorist attack against the UAE Ambassador, who was on a visit to Kandahar to lay the foundation stone for the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan orphanage and sign an agreement with Kardan University for the UAE to offer scholarships there.

“The terrorist attack that targeted the humanitarian delegation is a flagrant attempt on the Afghan people as it only intends to hinder any humanitarian work aimed to develop and improve their living conditions,” the association said. “We lend our full support to and take pride in the UAE’s humanitarian and relief efforts and policies in Afghanistan.

“We hope they will continue unaffected, as we believe that the attack was an attempt at hindering our ambassador from pursuing his country’s humanitarian efforts towards creating an educated and open Afghan community free from terrorism, radicalism and bigotry.”

cmalek@thenational.ae