The recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the escalating cost of living have further increased the financial burden on the humanitarian sector. Khaled Khalifa, the top UNHCR consultant for the GCC, emphasizes the importance of people showing their support during Ramadan, especially as the global refugee crisis worsens.
While the situation for refugees remains grim, Khalifa remains optimistic that this year’s UNHCR Ramadan appeal will greatly benefit those most in need.
“Our campaign is one of our main revenue streams as Ramadan is high season for fundraising. People are more likely to give during Ramadan, which is a great help in our efforts to get support to those who need the donations,” he said.
During the unveiling of the UNHCR’s annual Islamic Philanthropy report in Dubai on Monday, Khalifa mentioned that in 2022, donations to the Refugee Zakat Fund exceeded $21.4 million. Zakat, one of Islam’s five pillars, is a form of almsgiving seen as a tax or religious obligation.
According to the UNHCR’s latest statistics, over 103 million individuals worldwide are considered forcibly displaced, with a refugee population of over 32 million. The MENA region, with over 7 million refugees fleeing Syria, is in a particularly dire situation.
Despite recent events exacerbating the issue, Khalifa believes that people in the region will go above and beyond during Ramadan to provide assistance. He anticipates that individuals will be more generous to this population due to the double impact of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria on an already crisis-ridden Syrian population.
“People were already aware of the refugee crisis in the Muslim world before the earthquake struck Turkey and Syria. The Syrians were already living in a state of crisis and emergency before that, but now they have suffered a double whammy,” he said.
“I am expecting people to be more generous to this population because of that,” he added.
The UNHCR estimates that over 1.5 million refugees received direct aid through Zakat donations in 2022. Despite widespread sympathy for refugees, Khalifa cautions that if recent trends continue, the situation may spiral out of control.
Also, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees has launched an appeal for $16.2 million to address the immediate needs of those affected by the earthquake in Syria in terms of aid and early recovery.