How an extra Dh3 in your taxi fare helped refugees

How an extra Dh3 in your taxi fare helped refugees
373 individuals' six-month expenses will be covered by the drive

Dubai - The Dh367,000 collected from the initiative in UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will go to the UNHCR's cash-based assistance programme


Sherouk Zakaria

Published: Sun 21 Jan 2018, 5:43 PM

Last updated: Sun 21 Jan 2018, 7:53 PM

An amount of Dh3 for people living in Dubai might not be a big amount, but every small gesture matters for people displaced. But that exactly happened as residents of UAE joined a joint initiative to raise fund for the displaced people in the region.
Last Ramadan, the car-booking company Careem launched its UNHCR car in Dubai in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to allow passengers to donate and support refugees in the Mena region.
Riders in the UAE were given the option to choose UNHCR car on Careem app and pay the extra Dh3 on their fare to support the expenses of 89 Syrian and Iraqi displaced families in Lebanon and Jordan.
The $100,000 (Dh367,000) collected from the initiative in UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will go to the UNHCR's cash-based assistance programme that will provide a monthly amount of $175 (Dh642) to cover rent, medical and educational expenses of about 373 displaced individuals from 89 families in Lebanon and Jordan, for the coming six months. An average family of five would need $2,100 for one year. "That's a father buying medicine for his children, a mother taking care of her daughter's education and a family of five paying rent. An amount of Dh3 for people living in Dubai might not be a big amount, but every small gesture matters for people displaced," Omer Elnaiem, Campaign and Advocacy Officer at the UNHCR, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.
Nadia Rouchdy, head of Sustainability and Social Impact at Careem, noted residents' "mind-blowing response" to the initiative. "Passengers ordered the UNHCR from once up to 380 times, which has been a tremendous amount of support. Thanks to them, 373 individuals will be confident they have enough to cover their six-month expenses," said Rouchdy.
The initiative in Saudi Arabia and UAE allowed passengers to order the UNHCR car-type, while customers in Jordan were able to use promocode 'UNHCR', for Careem to donate 5 per cent of the trip revenue towards supporting vulnerable refugee families with life-saving aid.
Rouchdy said contributions were made to the cash-based assistance programme as an empowering tool for refugees. "We wanted to give them the choice. It is up to them to decide what it is that they need so the cash assistance provided them with most flexibility, choice and freedom to prioritise their need as a family."
As part of the partnership, the UNHCR also launched the online page ( in collaboration with Careem to allow residents to either support the Rohingya crisis who have fled violence in Myanmar or donate to help the region's refugees during winter.
According to UNHCR reports, there are over 65.3 million people forced out of their homes by poverty, war or persecution, which is the highest number of refugees recorded in human history.
With continuing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine, the MENA region accounts for more displacement than any other region, with 80 per cent of refugees now reside outside formal camps.
Statistics showed that almost four-in-every-five Syrian refugees in Jordan, for example, live outside formal camps. With dry resources, the "negative coping mechanisms" can place them at the risk of exploitation.
Huge funding gap
Elnaiem pointed out the huge funding gap obstructing the support of refugee families, emphasising on the role of the private sector to come up with consistent and long-term programmes that would contribute to the crisis in the region.
He said the needs of newly displaced people are different from those who have been living in urban settlements in different parts of the world. "The crisis in our region has been going on for years, which means the needs are now different. A refugee arriving at a camp today would need the emergency survival aid, hygiene, food and water but past this phase are people registered with the UNHCR, most of them residing in urban settlement who need empowerment and expenses covered," added Elnaiem.
He noted that only 52 per cent of the UNHCR budget has been met, with plenty of families on waiting lists and ongoing screenings to identify the most vulnerable families in need for cash assistance.
The private sector, Elnaiem noted, has the responsibility to deal with certain crises in the region through innovative and sustainable solutions. "There's a culture of giving among the Arab world, but we just need to long term and sustainable approach. It isn't only about giving once, which is why we encourage private companies to integrate sustainable solutions within their strategies to help make their region better," said Elnaiem.
The uniqueness of the UNHCR car, he added, was that it simplified giving to the public by integrating it into their daily routine.
Meanwhile, Rouchdy said the funding gap needs to be filled by organisations and individuals to make a difference. "Our initiative started organically in Ramadan when we saw the crisis unfolding and we realized the obvious need for the private sector to be involved," said Rouchdy.
She added that the ride-hailing company decided to make it a consistent initiative. "It wasn't an issue of supporting refugees only during the holy month, but they need ongoing revenues to support them with basic necessities."
The company is looking to expand operations in other countries in the region.
How can the public contribute?
* Advocate for refugees on social media by reminding people that refugees are ordinary people going under extraordinary circumstances. There are stories of success, love, resilience and family.
* Find the area closest to your heart and needed on field: education, women protection or entrepreneurship. Think how you can contribute to any of the areas.
* Mobilise your community, friends and family to come together and have a stand.
* Donate on to the cause closest to your heart.

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