By Awad Mustafa www.thenational.ae
DUBAI // A charity event organised by the children’s agency Unicef raised more than US$1 million (Dh3.67 million) for victims of Pakistan’s floods.
The fundraiser was attended by 650 guests and featured speeches by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Shaukat Aziz, the former Pakistani prime minister, Engin Soysal, the UN special envoy for assistance to Pakistan and the former Pakistan cricket captain and humanitarian, Imran Khan.
Many members of the Pakistani community also attended the event at Burj Khalifa’s Armani Hotel on Friday.
Sheikh Nahyan, who described the relationship between Pakistan and the UAE as one of “common heritage and culture”, donated Dh1 million to the cause.
“I admire such strong advocacy for the children and we are blessed with the presence of dignitaries and humanitarians who are helping those who are suffering and in need,” he said.
More than 2,000 people died and two million were made homeless by the floods that began in late July and covered one-fifth of the country’s surface. An estimated 20 million people suffered from destruction of property, loss of livelihood, damage to infrastructure or a combination of these.
“On behalf of my fellow citizens I offer my condolences and express our grief for your massive loss,” Sheikh Nahyan said.
Mr Aziz highlighted the importance of continued efforts towards recovery.
“The area that [was] covered by the floods is the size of Italy,” he said. “Pakistan has tremendous potential, especially because more than half the population is aged under 25. We must stand together and support each other.”
Mr Khan spoke about his experiences and relief efforts, highlighting the acute need for funding.
“As I travelled through the villages washed away by the floods, I saw displaced families scattered in the makeshift shelters without food, adequate clothing and health services,” he said.
“I saw distressed families squatting together in the most unhygienic conditions. I could see the unfolding tragedy and knew that in order to cope with devastation of such … magnitude and severity, we all needed to lend a helping hand.
“The response to the tragedy was similar to our cricket team – brilliant at times and disappointing at others,” he said. “The brilliance came from the people who opened their homes and supported the victims.”
Mr Khan also criticised mainstream media, saying the disaster and its aftermath had “disappeared from the media”.
Describing the calamity and destruction, Mr Soysal said: “Villages from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea were devastated, the main loss came to Pakistan’s farming community and two million people have lost their homes.”
Premium seats at the event were sold at Dh2,000 and general seats cost Dh1,000.
A raffle draw featured prizes valued at more than $150,000 and a live auction offered seats at Manchester United and Barcelona Champions League games.
Mr Aziz announced during the event that Dh367,000 had been pledged to the cause by expatriate Pakistanis.
Mr Khan presented for auction a signed cricket bat used during Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup win. It fetched Dh60,000.