From cancer medicines to baby food: UAE residents unite to help flood-hit neighbourhoods

Nearly 6,000 volunteers linked to a single support group are working tirelessly across the country to help those affected


Mazhar Farooqui

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Published: Sat 20 Apr 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 21 Apr 2024, 4:32 PM

On Thursday, a plea for help surfaced in a Rainsupport WhatsApp group, established in response to the devastating rains that paralysed various parts of the UAE. A distressed woman urgently sought assistance for her 71-year-old father, stranded alone in a high-rise building in Sharjah's Al Majaz neighbourhood. Without electricity and with a malfunctioning elevator, the elderly man, battling a heart condition, found himself unable to climb down the stairs and reach safety.

"The area lacks deliveries, and the food stored in his freezer is unusable," his daughter texted. "He's also running out of phone battery."

Responding promptly, volunteers sprang into action within minutes, braving flooded waters to rescue the man and transport him to a hospital. "Case solved," declared the admin's message.

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"Since Tuesday, around 6,000 volunteers from a single support group have relentlessly tackled hundreds of cases, extending aid to those in dire need. Providing shelter, food, medicine, groceries and vital supplies, they're tirelessly working to alleviate distress in the disaster's aftermath."

Muneer Al Wafaa, 50, from Kerala, India, the man behind these support groups recalled how it all began: "I launched a Rainsupport WhatsApp group around 6pm on Tuesday, as the situation began to escalate. Within hours, it reached its maximum capacity of 1,024 members, prompting the creation of additional groups. By Friday afternoon, we had established six such groups, five of which are at full capacity."

Leveraging his IT background, Al Wafaa also established a website where individuals in need and those offering assistance could register, streamlining the aid coordination process.

From a cancer patient in urgent need of medication to an asthmatic requiring an inhaler, and hungry families desperate for food and water, countless requests have been promptly met.

Al Wafaa emphasised that while they cannot guarantee specific services, their goal is to build a network of compassion and solidarity. "Rest assured, any data collected remains strictly confidential and solely used for assistance."

He said they don't accept cash donations, but welcome contributions of essential items like canned food, fruits, milk, bread, and water. "We can have it picked up from anywhere and sent to those in need."

A new mother in Al Qassimya, Sharjah, who got baby food delivered to her doorstep this afternoon, said she's indebted to the individuals behind the initiative. "My husband is travelling, and his return flight got cancelled. Living on the 14th floor with no power, I couldn't possibly leave my child alone to search for baby food, especially with the entire area submerged in water. I had lost hope until I found this group.'"

Al Wafaa said that the real heroes, without capes, are the volunteers on the ground. "They come from all nationalities, ages, and backgrounds, yet are united for a common cause."

The group has spawned various subgroups: some focused on food aid, others on reuniting car owners with their lost number plates, and off-roaders skilled in navigating treacherous waters.

Additionally, there are splinter support groups, such as the one managed by Dubai resident Kanwal Malik, originally from Karachi, Pakistan. "Even though I'm not physically in the UAE right now, I've hardly slept in the past few days, managing things from afar as if an emergency were unfolding in my own home," shared Malik, who is also an active member of the RainSupport Group.

One of the measures she has implemented is encouraging members to update their WhatsApp names with their area for easier location.

Local organisations, like Markazu Saqafathi Sunniya Al Islamiya Dubai, commonly known as Markaz Dubai, have also joined the initiative, mobilizing hundreds of volunteers for the mission.

This afternoon, representatives from the organization's sister concern, Indian Cultural Forum (ICF) Sharjah, reached out to scores of people in Al Nahda and Al Majaz. Meanwhile, representatives of ICF Al Ain worked late into the night yesterday to clean mosques of rainwater and sludge ahead of the Friday afternoon prayers in the city.

Muneer Mundaliya, media and events coordinator at Markaz Dubai, said their volunteers also cleaned around 50 houses in Hor Al Anz, which were badly affected by the flooding.

Aid workers said the situation is particularly bad in Sharjah's industrial area, Al Majaz, Abu Shagara, Jamal Abdul Naseer Street, and Al Qasimiya, where many parts are only accessible by boats. Ubaid, a resident of Al Qasimya, entire neighbourhood is flooded.

Al Wafaa said he planning to set up aid collection centres in strategic locations to speed up assistance.


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