By Nadeem Hanif www.thenational.ae
DUBAI // Temporary schools, medicine and food supplies are among the items that will be bought using the US$1 million (Dh3.67m) raised during a star-studded gala held for the flood victims of Pakistan.
The event, which took place at the Armani hotel in the Burj Khalifa two weeks ago, was so successful that Unicef doubled the initial estimates of what could be done with the money.
The organisers now plan to run an annual fund-raiser that focuses on a different element of the reconstruction and rebuilding effort in Pakistan.
According to the United Nations, the floods last July damaged one-fifth of the country and affected 20 million people, sweeping away schools, roads and houses.
“It was a fantastic response from the people who took part in the fund-raiser, and it has allowed us to double the number of children we can help,” said Lara Adnan Hussein, Unicef’s chief of child protection for the Gulf area office.
“The focus must now move to rebuilding and caring for those affected – in particular, children.”
The money will be used to vaccinate two million children against polio and measles. Special nutritious biscuits and other foods will be given to 4,000 children to prevent malnutrition and 30 temporary schools will be set up with separate toilets for boys and girls.
“Hundreds of thousands of lives have been affected by this disaster and it will take a long time for these communities to recover,” Ms Hussein said.
The March 4 event featured Pakistani celebrities including the former national cricketer Imran Khan and the tennis player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi. Organisers said they were surprised the event had sold out.
“At first, we thought we would be lucky to get 330 people to come along, but the interest quickly meant we had to go back to the hotel and ask for 550 and then 650 more spaces,” said Cem Sinirlioglu, an associate at Lazard investment bank at DIFC, who was involved in organising the event. “It was a phenomenal response and we even had to turn people away.”
A committee of bankers, consultants and academics based in the DIFC has been formed to look into ways of organising an annual gala, as well as setting up an advocacy group to raise awareness and maintain the public profile of the flood victims.
“It’s now seven months after the disaster and public attention was beginning to wane, but for the survivors of the floods, they still need our help and support,” Mr Sinirlioglu said. He added that many of the people were still living in makeshift tents and children had nowhere to go to school.
“We are talking with various non-governmental organisations about what other ways we can help in the future. Next year, most likely, we will be looking at funding education for girls in Pakistan,” said Mr Sinirlioglu, a Turkish national who has been living in Dubai for four years.
“I strongly believe that people have a moral obligation to help others who are less well off than themselves.
“People think that this disaster isn’t close to home, but it is. Many of the people who built Dubai’s towers and famous buildings are from Pakistan and their relatives have been affected.”
The efforts of Dubai’s business community to help Pakistan have been welcomed by Jamil Ahmed Khan, the country’s ambassador to the UAE.
“The gala was a unique initiative that was inspired by young people,” he said. “One of the great things is that this event was community-centric as opposed to being pushed by a particular government, which is wonderful.”
Mr Khan said he was encouraged by the fact that people were continuing to support the victims of the floods.
He said the priority now was for work to continue to rebuild the infrastructure, but it would take time and require the continued support of the international community. He also paid tribute to the support provided to Pakistan by the UAE Government.