Muslim Aid is today (22 February) launching an appeal for aid to assist drought-stricken parts of southern Pakistan which are receiving little international attention although some 5 million people are caught in the grip of the prolonged dry weather.
“The drought in Balochistan and Sindh is going under the radar," says CEO of Muslim Aid, Jehangir Malik OBE. “Millions of people are suffering, and their livestock is facing ruin. It is absolutely vital that aid reaches these pockets and agencies respond as soon as possible.”
The slow but relentless onset of drought has led to food insecurity and has affected some 3.4 million livestock, on which many people depend for their livelihoods, across 18 districts in Balochistan and 8 in Sindh, according to local authorities.
Muslim Aid has prepared a drought response plan which is aligned with the overall priorities of the government of Pakistan. Both provinces have declared emergencies and requested support, while a national emergency calling on donors is said to be being considered in Islamabad. Keeping in view the severity of the situation, Muslim Aid has declared it as an orange alert -II which means that we are going to provide assistance at scale. As per our plan, we will be reaching out to 133,660 people in the four worst districts of Balochistan.
Some of the most severely affected districts are Kharan, Nushki, Washuk and Chagai, situated in North West of Baluchistan province, and are initially prioritised by Muslim Aid for this response. Our emergency response team, deployed to Balochistan since 25 January 2019, carried out assessments and collected first-hand information, witnessing the dried-up water sources and skeletal cattle. Muslim Aid has already located 900-1000 families in Chagai and is organising to provide dry food and animal feed, but much more is needed. It plans are to reach 19,095 families in the next 9 months.
Mr Saadullah, resident of the village of Meer Ayub Khan, told Muslim Aid emergency response field team: “We are facing water shortage, livestock diseases and deaths, agriculture and health challenges. We bring drinking water … from tehsil Daalbadien Bani. Our village is 35 kilometres away... It took at least one hour by road... This is very much difficult for us to manage the fodder and water needs of our livestock during this drought situation”.
The two provinces have been hit by recurring drought over several years. Climate change is likely a factor. One assessment points out that since 2013 rainfall has decreased 74% and this coexists with poverty. According to the UN, 71% of Balochistan’s 12 million people live in poverty with high malnutrition among children.
Local and international agencies are monitoring the situation. Meanwhile, the Pakistan government is targeting $96.3 million for drought relief and recovery work. Food packs, clean-water provision, medical equipment, sanitation provision and help for the recovery for livestock are critical.
For interviews, photos or more information, please contact Eileen Maybin at email@example.com or on 07932 088111
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who was chair of the Conservative Party and a senior minister at the Foreign Office, has just returned from meeting Syrian refugees on a visit with Muslim Aid to the Turkish side of the Turkey/Syria border. She broke one of the first fasts of the Ramadan month, which started at the weekend, with Syrian refugees in a Widow and Orphans’ Project refuge after spending the day in Boynuyogan refugee camp and at the National Syrian Project for Prosthetic Limbs. Children and adults, who have lost limbs due to the bombardments of the war, come to the clinic in the Reyhanli district of Hatay Province for help, within view of the border with their home country.
One of the refugees at the clinic whose story moved Baroness Warsi deeply was Saif al-din Ali Akta, a five year old boy who had the lower part of both his legs blown off in a missile attack which killed both his brother and sister. Baroness Warsi stayed with Saif al-din, who is not able to move himself around on his stumps, as he had prosthetic limbs fitted, and saw him start walking a little distance on his new legs.
“Unfortunately in Europe we only seem to focus on refugees when they arrive on our shores. When other political issues have become a priority, it is almost for us out-of-sight, out-of-mind. So I am hoping is that, as children like Saif al-din are in-sight for me, they are in-mind for me, I can use that to make sure other people in Britain don’t forget that this crisis is far from over”, says Baroness Warsi.
“For me, Ramadan has always been about family”, she continues. “Of course it is about fasting, it is about refocusing your faith, but it is also about spending that quality time with your families and, for me, it is a privilege to be spending Ramadan here with what I see as my broader family, our broader family, the refugee family, people who need us as much, if not more, than our own families do.”
Saif al-din’s mother, Mana, now 33, had to leave her home three years ago without any preparation, because of the siege of Aleppo. At the end of last year, government forces embarked on a decisive campaign that resulted in the recapture of the city after a four-year stand-off between the government and opposition. Mana and her four children fled in the direction of the Turkish border, but on the way a missile struck them, killing her 13-year-old daughter and five year old son. Saif al-din’s eldest brother, now 18, also survived but lost one leg from the hip down. Mana still suffers from pain caused by shrapnel wounds in her legs.
“I would love to go home to Aleppo, but I know it’s an impossible dream,” says Mana, through an Arabic translator, admitting that she has her hands full caring for her two surviving children who are both so disabled. She speaks no Turkish and does not feel at home in her new country. She says that she cannot speak about the feelings she has about what has happened to her family, otherwise she would not cope day-to-day. Asked about her husband, Mana turned her face away, clearly unable to respond.
“We are giving Saif al-din practice on his prosthetics by luring him with sweets or drinks, to make him walk a little way,” says Dr Rayid al-Musri who smiled as he saw the child make progress on his artificial limbs. “He has to be very careful not to wear them for too long until his body is used to them, it’s not easy to walk with one prosthetic, and it’s extremely difficult with two.”
Later on, the visiting party witnessed further progress at the Boynuyogan refugee camp where 8,000 people (2,000 families) live in small cube-style houses, on two floors with a private bathroom. The camp has large open areas, a playground, a café, a few shops such as one named Rosemary which sells perfume, a school with 115 teachers of whom 74 are Syrian and its pride – the supermarket which stocks everything from hair products to fresh vegetables. Each adult in the camp is allocated 100 lire (£21) per month in vouchers to spend in the supermarket.
“It is heartening to see the inspirational work the Turkish Red Crescent and Muslim Aid partner, Syria Relief, have done to ensure that people are not living in squalid camps,” says Jehangir Malik, Muslim Aid CEO, who accompanied Baroness Warsi and who has visited Syrian refugees regularly since the crisis began. “This voucher scheme for shopping is very popular, as it means the families can choose what they want to buy, they have that independence, instead of receiving handouts. It is helping restore some self-respect and normality to life.” Six months ago Boynuyogan camp was still just tents as it had been for six years since people started flooding over the border.
Muslim Aid supports 14 hospitals, a trauma treatment centre and emergency relief inside Syria, as well as working in Lebanon and Jordan with Syrian refugees. Mr Malik was in Turkey to develop funding plans for refugees there. Turkey hosts nearly 2.7 million of the 4.8 million Syrian refugees displaced worldwide (see Notes to Editor).
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families of those affected by the atrocity in Manchester last night. As humanitarians we are deeply saddened, appalled and dismayed by this act of indiscriminate hatred which has claimed the lives of so many innocent people.
Inspired by our faith, Muslim Aid, Human Appeal and Islamic Relief work together with different communities across the UK to tackle global poverty, famine and alleviate the devastation caused by conflict. These acts of solidarity from members of the public demonstrate our common goal for the good of mankind and the importance of standing together in times of crisis.
|Othman Moqbel |
CEO, Human Appeal
|Imran Madden |
|Jehangir Malik |
CEO, Muslim Aid
MUSLIM AID PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release: 16 December 2016
Ten tonnes of food donated to the homeless at East London Mosque ‘exceeded expectations’
“The Big Food Drive” organised by Muslim Aid exceeded all expectations today, as ten tonnes of food was donated for the homeless, outside the East London Mosque.
“We are overwhelmed by people’s generosity today and very pleased that this will mean thousands of homeless people in London will be well-fed over the Christmas and the winter period,” said Jehangir Malik, CEO of Muslim Aid. ‘We hope and pray that people from all backgrounds and walks of life will come together to contribute to the Big Food Drive to serve the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Dilowar Khan, Executive Director of the East London Mosque said: “It was heart-warming to see so many people bringing food to the Mosque and a good sign of our common humanity. We need to build on this and make sure that we support those less fortunate all year round.”
The Reverend Bernadette Hegarty of St Pauls, Bow Common Church, attended the event and said:
“Giving is an important part of both the Christian and Islam faith and it is important for us to be working together to do what we can to support our brothers and sisters.”
Members of the congregation, local businesses and schools all brought food to the mosque, including pallets of rice, pasta, cereals and baked beans.
This food is now being transported to a warehouse belonging to homeless charity, Crisis.
Notes to editors
Photos of the event, including Muslim Aid volunteers packing the food, people bringing the food and representatives of Muslim Aid and the East London Mosque, as well as The Reverend Bernadette Hegarty, are available here:
Muslim Aid is planning to provide a tonne of food for the homeless in London on Friday as it hosts “The Big Food Drive” at the East London Mosque. Members of one of the largest Muslim congregations in the UK are encouraged to bring food when attending the Friday prayers and the local university, schools and businesses will also be taking part. The food will then be delivered to the homeless charity Crisis.
“With austerity cuts and the housing crisis, more and more people are ending up on the streets – destitute. We, as a Muslim charity, want to do everything we can to help the most vulnerable people in this country this Christmas, regardless of faith or background,” said Jehangir Malik, Chief Executive of Muslim Aid.
“Helping those in need is one of the five pillars of Islam and as temperatures plummet we need to do everything we can to protect those most at risk.”
The initiative is supported by the stars of Amazon’s inter-faith Christmas video, London Vicar Rev Gary Bradley and Zubeir Hassam, principal of a Muslim school in Leicestershire. In a video message promoting “The Big Food Drive, Rev Gary Bradley said: “Over 90% of the collection will go to non-Muslims, so this is all faiths working together for a common humanity.”
Muslim Aid has produced a video showing Rev Bradley and Zubeir Hassam delivering food to the East London Mosque where the Amazon ad was originally filmed.
The numbers of homeless people have risen dramatically in the UK. Government figures state that in 2015 3,569 people slept rough on any one night, which was a 30% rise on the previous year. But Crisis, says the true figure is far higher.
“Thousands of families are facing benefit cuts or zero hours contracts. And too many people are unable to pay exorbitant rents, putting them in danger of being forced out onto the freezing cold streets. This is quite simply unacceptable,” said Jehangir Malik.
Ian Richards, Head of Crisis at Christmas, said: “Every year, Crisis opens its doors to thousands of homeless people, offering a safe, warm welcome with food and companionship, as well as access to vital services and year-round opportunities. None of this would be possible without the generosity of our donors, and we’d like to thank Muslim Aid and the East London Mosque for their kind support. This food will help us provide a lifeline for homeless people this Christmas and bring them one step closer to escaping homelessness for good.”
The “Big Food Drive” is part of Muslim Aid’s Warm Hearts Winter Appeal reaching out to thousands of homeless and elderly people this winter.
Each year over 43,000 people die in England and Wales due to the effects of the cold weather.
In addition to providing food, Muslim Aid is working alongside various charities to provide “Keep Warm Kits” to 1,600 homeless and elderly people. These kits include blankets, gloves, socks and hats for the elderly and sleeping bags for the homeless.
As part of the Warm Hearts Winter Appeal, Muslim Aid is encouraging members of the public to fill up their rucksacks with winter essentials, such as food, gloves and a sleeping bag and hand this over to a homeless person living nearby. So far, 2,000 rucksacks have been given to homeless people as part of this initiative.
This work of Muslim volunteers helping vulnerable communities across Britain defies some of the messages coming out of the recent UK government report on community cohesion commissioned by David Cameron and carried out by Dame Louise Casey.
“The report highlighted self-segregation of Muslim communities but the work of our volunteers belies this message. As British Muslims, they represent the British values of hospitality, tolerance and generosity. These values are particularly important at the moment when deep divisions have been exposed following the Brexit vote,” concluded Jehangir Malik. “We have a duty to help others, whether we are Christians or Muslims or any other faith, not because of the religions that may differentiate us but by the humanity that unites us.”
Events and/or filming opportunities
16 December The Big Food Drive at East London Mosque, 12-2pm. Muslim Aid volunteers will be accepting food parcels and packing them into vans to be delivered to Crisis.
17/18 December Muslim Aid volunteers will be packing “Keep Warm Kits” for the homeless and the elderly at 100 Whitechapel Road from 10am to 6pm.
21 December Muslim Aid volunteers will be distributing “Keep Warm Kits” at a Christmas dinner for the elderly at St James The Less Church in Bethnal Green.
21 December Rucksack distribution to the homeless with comedian Guzzy Bear in Birmingham from 4 – 5pm.
For more information and/or interviews and filming requests please contact Louise Orton at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 377 4210 or mobile 07939 141764.
At least 500 people requiring urgent medical attention must be evacuated from eastern Aleppo immediately said a partner of Muslim Aid today, from inside Aleppo itself.
Among those currently trapped include at least 12 people requiring intensive care treatment, new born babies in need of incubation and people requiring emergency surgery and kidney dialysis.
Jehangir Malik, CEO of Muslim Aid said: “Too many people have died already in this unrelenting war. It is a matter of life and death that this evacuation takes place immediately.”
Muslim Aid is supporting a hospital close to the Turkey/Syria border, providing medical equipment and costs for 127 staff members, including doctors, pharmacists, nurses, technicians, porters and cleaners.
“These committed staff members know that there are so many people who urgently need their help and if they aren’t evacuated soon, many of them will die. These long delays could lead to huge medical complications that could have been avoided. That is very hard for medical professionals to bear,” added Jehangir.
“The staff inside the hospital are all now on standby ready to provide emergency treatment once the evacuation takes place.”
Muslim Aid’s partner organisation currently has 200 staff members trapped inside Aleppo, including doctors, teachers, project managers and others.
A spokesperson for the partner spoke to a staff member inside Aleppo yesterday who said: “We are waiting for our fate. I am ready to die but then I look at a photo of my son and I want to cry.” He said: “What can I do? I feel so helpless.”
Muslim Aid is supporting the partner to run five primary schools in Syria (three in Aleppo) and two in Idlib. The three schools in Aleppo have stopped functioning and all the children are displaced.
“Our partner is urgently trying to re-establish contact with the teachers in order to know what has happened to the children. Once we know where they are we will do everything we can to help them,” explained Jehangir.
Muslim Aid and the local partner have been distributing food parcels in Aleppo but this was suspended last week.
“The situation in Syria is one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our time; it is nothing less than barbaric,” concluded Jehangir. “The relevant authorities must urgently facilitate a safe exit for all civilians and humanitarian workers out of the besieged area to the destinations of their choice without being the subject of detention, interrogation or persecution.
“The warring parties are ultimately to blame but the international community must stop wringing its hands and do what it can to ensure that we don’t have another Srebrenica or Rwanda on our hands.”