|21 August, 2019

UNHCR's Refugee Zakat Fund raises $38.1mln; assists 111,209 families

In the first half of 2019, $15.9 million of the zakat funds raised were distributed to refugees

UNHCR refugee project in Bangladesh.

UNHCR refugee project in Bangladesh.

UNHCR / Handout via Zawya

The UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund has raised $38.1 million in six months and supported 111,209 families (648,476 individuals) across seven countries so far this year.

The United Nations' refugee agency’s zakat fund is a Sharia-compliant structure that channels zakat funds to the most vulnerable refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) around the world and was introduced earlier this year. It is a dedicated non-interest-bearing account in Switzerland.

A new report by UNHCR highlighting the impact of Refugee Zakat Fund, said that $38.1 million was raised through the fund due to generous contributions from donors across the globe; surpassing the fundraising target of $26 million originally set for 2019.

The zakat funds raised from January through June assisted 648,476 IDPs and refugees. In the first half of 2019, $15.9 million of the zakat funds raised were distributed as multi-purpose cash assistance to refugees in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, and Bangladesh, taking critical steps towards supporting Rohingya refugees, the report said.

Source: UNHCR

"$15.9 million of the Zakat funds raised was distributed in the form of multi-purpose cash assistance to these families across seven countries, with the largest three destination countries comprising Yemen ($13.5 million); Jordan ($0.7 million), and Lebanon ($0.6 million). The remainder of the funds are mostly assigned to help some 670,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and distribution is in progress," the report noted.

The zakat fund, "is a testament of the instrumental role that Islamic philanthropy can play in the humanitarian response to displacement crisis globally,” said Houssam Chahin, UNHCR’s Head of Private Sector Partnerships in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Source: UNHCR

Out of the money raised so far for the first half of 2019, large donations from institutions and high net worth individuals contributed $35.5 million; $2.6 million was raised through digital donations, of which $2.2 million was raised during Ramadan alone.

Rafi-uddin Shikoh, CEO and Managing Director at DinarStandard, growth strategy firm working with UNHCR on the production of the report, said “The Refugee Zakat Fund has gained substantial momentum since its launch earlier this year. With its expansion to Bangladesh and already exceeding the original target of $26 million for 2019, the Refugee Zakat Fund is gearing up to showcase the impact it can have on the lives of millions of displaced families.”

The UNHCR's mid-year review report also revealed that for the first time, Zakat was raised online by UNHCR offices in Canada, the United Kingdom and in a number of countries in South East Asia.

"We believe that Islamic philanthropy is yet to realize its full potential within the global humanitarian sector, and it is our responsibility to effectively channel this potential to not just address the immediate humanitarian needs of refugees, but to provide them with a secure and sustainable future," Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR Director of the Regional Bureau of Asia Pacific, said in the report.

(Reporting by Seban Scaria; Editing by Daniel Luiz)

(seban.scaria@refinitiv.com)

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