UAE - A 90-minute live fundraising event has raised Dh30.74 million to offer relief to victims of the Beirut blasts. This comes 24 hours after The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity, announced a campaign to provide emergency relief for the victims of the devastating explosion that struck Beirut last week.

The fundraising show was hosted on Sharjah TV's popular Direct Line (Al Khat Al Mubasher) programme, with dozens of charitable individuals and organisations calling in to make generous contributions.

In a passionate plea made on Tuesday at the launch of 'Salam Beirut' - an emergency aid and relief campaign - Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, and Chairperson of TBHF and Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children at UNHCR, had called on individuals and organisations to stand in solidarity with Lebanon.

The Sharjah Islamic Bank donated Dh6 million; while Bank of Sharjah, Humaid Jaafar, and an anonymous philanthropist donated Dh5 million each.

We will never abandon Lebanon: Sultan

His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, called on Arab countries to support the Lebanese people so they are not left as other countries were. He said Arabs can heal their wounds with their own hands and that "Lebanon was and is still part of the Arab nation".

"We thank everyone who has come forward to help Lebanon cope with this unprecedented tragedy through their good deeds and words. This is the time to stand with the Lebanese people, not the time to meddle with politics or past issues. We will be there until you get back on your feet. We are with all those who are calling for reform to end the turmoil in Lebanon," the Sharjah Ruler added.

"We are rooting for you Lebanon. We will never abandon you," Sheikh Dr Sultan Al Qasimi asserted. "I hope whoever hears my words will support (Lebanon), even if it is with a word. We need to feel that we can heal each other's wounds, support each other. I wish all of you success until we meet at the celebration that will mark Lebanon's freedom. That day will come."

Help pours in

During the programme from 1.30pm to 3pm, renowned personalities and leaders of the Arab world came on air expressing their grief at the disaster and urged their compatriots to lend a helping hand.

Fouad Chehab Nabih Dandan, Lebanese Ambassador to the UAE, extended the gratitude of Lebanon's citizens and residents to Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi for quickly responding to the situation.

"Through such deeds, the UAE and its leadership epitomise the true spirit of brotherhood and humanity. We laud your nation's rapid humanitarian response and we equally share the love and sincerity your people have for Lebanon and its people. The UAE has always firmly stood by the Lebanese people through tragedies they have experienced. What you are doing for our people today comes as no surprise to us, and we thank each and every individual and organisation in this generous country who contributed," he said.

Popular Lebanese soprano singer, Majida El Roumi, remarked that despite living through several trying times in Lebanon, the aftermath of the Beirut explosion is "nothing like what I have seen or experienced before." "Beirut is devastated. The spirit and hopes of the Lebanese people are crushed," she said. "I look forward to seeing these charitable donations contributing to reconstructing the homes of people that were damaged before winter, preserving Beirut's heritage and history and preserving its identity.

Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF, stressed that "the entire world and not just the Arab region was deeply saddened" by the Beirut incident. "The innocent victims of this tragedy were caught in a deadly explosion as they were labouring to provide for their families, just going about their day. In seconds, their lives turned upside down.

"We are working meticulously with on-ground organisations and agencies in Lebanon to ensure all donations directly reach the affected. The first phase of Salam Beirut is focusing on providing medical aid, food and water supplies and shelter to victims, and includes rubble removal, the provision of essential services such as electricity, sanitation and plumbing."


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