World hunger, child­hood ill­ness, refugees: The chair­per­son of Dubai’s In­ter­na­tional Hu­man­i­tar­ian City – and wife of Shaikh Mo­ham­mad Bin Rashid Al Mak­toum – be­lieves the world’s is­sues are solv­able

Friday - - Front Page -

IIn May this year, when a wave of vi­o­lence swept over South Su­dan and peo­ple were flee­ing to Uganda, the In­ter­na­tional Hu­man­i­tar­ian City (IHC) in Dubai, un­der the chair­per­son­ship of Princess Haya Bint Al Hus­sain, wife of His High­ness Shaikh Mo­ham­mad Bin Rashid Al Mak­toum, Vice-Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, re­sponded by in­stantly rush­ing over Dh1.6mil­lion worth of core re­lief items in­clud­ing kitchen sets and shel­ters.

When Hur­ri­cane Matthew tore through Haiti last year, the chair­per­son of the IHC flew to Haiti where she per­son­ally su­per­vised the de­liv­ery and dis­tri­bu­tion of over 90 tonnes of aid for the sur­vivors of the catas­tro­phe.

But then rush­ing aid to the needy is noth­ing new for the IHC, the only hu­man­i­tar­ian free zone in the world, which hosts more than 60 hu­man­i­tar­ian en­ti­ties, non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions and com­mer­cial com­pa­nies.

‘This is our re­spon­si­bil­ity. This is our hu­man­ity. And this is what fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will judge us by,’ Princess Haya said, re­fer­ring to the aid sent, in a speech at the World Govern­ment Sum­mit in Dubai ear­lier this year.

Daugh­ter of the late King Hus­sein of Jor­dan, Princess Haya’s hu­man­i­tar­ian fo­cus re­calls that of her mother, Queen Alia, who died when the Princess was two years old.

The 43-year-old royal is well known not just for her aid work but also in the eques­trian arena: She cre­ated his­tory at Syd­ney 2000 when she be­came the first fe­male Arab flag-bearer at an Olympic Game. At the time she was the youngest Arab and the first to com­pete in an eques­trian dis­ci­pline.

As well as be­ing the chair­per­son of the board at IHC, she was made an Of­fi­cer of the Na­tional Or­der of the Le­gion of Honor, France’s high­est dis­tinc­tion, for her hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts.

If there is one thing, more than any other, that the Princess – mum to Shaikha Al Jalila, nine, and Shaikh Zayed, five – would like to end, it is chil­dren go­ing to bed hun­gry.

‘There are 300 mil­lion chil­dren in the world right now who will go to bed tonight hun­gry,’ she said, in an ex­clu­sive email in­ter­view with Fri­day. ‘We must raise our voice… It’s time for hunger to end.’

Some of the world’s big­gest is­sues – hunger among them – can be solved, with com­mit­ment from politi­cians and the public, Princess Haya says, as she an­swers ques­tions on her hu­man­i­tar­ian work and fam­ily life. You once wrote about a prac­ti­cal joke at a baby shower – how a mum-to-be opened a greet­ing card that gave out a pierc­ing cry in­stead of a sooth­ing lul­laby. Can you share that story with us? I once at­tended a baby shower at which, among the gifts, the mother-to-be opened a greet­ing card. The front of the card was in­nocu­ous enough, with a pho­to­graph of a sleep­ing baby and a mes­sage, ‘A baby is God’s Sweet­est Gift.’ In­side, the card had a button adorned with a picture of a mu­si­cal note, marked, ‘press’.

As the smil­ing mother-to-be pressed the button, in­stead of the sooth­ing lul­laby notes she might have ex­pected, the pierc­ing cry of a recorded baby rang out from the card.

Ev­ery­body laughed at first, but there was no way to si­lence the card. Her smile quickly be­came a frown, she con­tin­ued to press the button, but the vol­ume of the cry­ing in­creased.

‘OK, this isn’t funny any­more,’ she said. ‘Who bought this? How do I turn it off?’ The cry­ing baby card was passed around the room as var­i­ous women shook it, pressed it, hit it and even­tu­ally stamped on it. One by one, the women gave up, stumped as they failed to quiet the baby’s cries, each more pierc­ing than the last.

Mean­while, the mother-to-be was be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ag­i­tated. ‘Can some­one get rid of that?’ she asked, ges­tur­ing to the cry­ing card. What had clearly been in­tended as a prac­ti­cal joke had struck a raw nerve; no mother, or mother-to-be, can bear to hear a baby cry. One of the guests took the card out of the liv­ing room and into an ad­ja­cent bed­room.

The thing about ba­bies is that their cries have the power to turn moth­ers in­sane with des­per­a­tion. It’s not some­thing we are sup­posed to say out loud, but it cuts straight to your heart. I don’t know any mother who has not been brought to her knees by the quiet des­per­a­tion of try­ing to soothe a cry­ing child. Who has not found her­self, in the dead of night, fran­ti­cally be­yond tears while a baby screamed, screamed, and screamed some more. But, as I told that mother-to-be that day, usu­ally, the rea­sons for the tears are quite sim­ple, and when we can de­code the mes­sages, most of us can soothe our chil­dren’s cries.

You’ll need to stay calm and run through a checklist in your mind; is the baby too hot or too cold? Are they dry? Do they need burp­ing or are they cry­ing for food? It’s almost al­ways some­thing sim­ple, and they’ll usu­ally set­tle once you meet that need.

But the rea­son I wrote about it was that it made me think of the moth­ers who must lis­ten to their ba­bies cry be­cause they can­not meet their needs.

What do they do about the cries that cut through them like ma­chetes, more re­lent­less than that dread­ful card (which, by the way, fi­nally ran out of bat­ter­ies af­ter three hours of noise)?

The sound of a cry­ing child is un­bear­able. There are no two ways about it. But what must it be like to face that sound and try to com­fort your child in the des­per­ate knowl­edge that there is noth­ing you can do to take away their pain? What must it be like for hunger to con­sume your own body, to barely have the strength to move, and yet to have to find the en­ergy, night af­ter night, to hold and rock your cry­ing child to sleep? As a mother, what would you do? Would you wish for si­lence; send up a prayer that asks for the noise to stop; just to stop?

We’ve all been there, but not with stakes like these. Per­haps you would pray that it would never stop, as si­lence could sig­nify a far greater tragedy?

There are 300 mil­lion chil­dren in the world right now that will go to bed, tonight, hun­gry. Their moth­ers who must look into their eyes, day af­ter day, when they have noth­ing, or not enough, to give. None of us want to know these facts, to re­ally know them. They are too raw. Too pain­ful.

Hard as it might be, we have to avoid the urge to build sound­proof walls and elec­tric fences around our own fam­i­lies, around your own con­scious­ness: we owe it to our own chil­dren to em­brace the thread of ma­ter­nal com­pas­sion that unites us all as women, as moth­ers, as hu­man be­ings. To recog­nise that there are moth­ers, far too many moth­ers in the world who face this ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion. And

‘What must it be like for HUNGER to con­sume your own BODY, to barely have the STRENGTH to move, and yet to have to find the en­ergy, night af­ter night, to hold and rock your cry­ing CHILD to sleep?’

we must raise our voice to help them meet the needs of their chil­dren. It’s time for hunger to end.

If you are moved to help an­other mother to feed her chil­dren, there are many ways to make a dif­fer­ence. You could do­nate to a food bank that sup­ports fam­i­lies in your lo­cal area. Or you could sup­port the World Food Pro­gramme, Unicef or an NGO like Save the Chil­dren, Médicins Sans Fron­tiers [MSF], Ox­fam or CARE. You have said ‘Hunger is the world’s great­est solv­able prob­lem’. But why is hunger still such a ma­jor is­sue across the world? Hunger should not be an is­sue to­day. Politi­cians sim­ply do not make end­ing it a pri­or­ity. More than a tril­lion dol­lars is spent ev­ery year on arms world­wide, while we spend less money on in­ter­na­tional food aid than Euro­peans or Amer­i­cans spend on pet food.

The truth is that there has been enough food glob­ally to feed ev­ery man, woman, and child since the 1960s. We also lose or waste 1.3 tril­lion tonnes of food world­wide each year. That is an amaz­ing num­ber. So the prob­lem is not sup­ply – it is mostly poverty.

There are still nearly 800 mil­lion peo­ple who are so poor that they can­not af­ford enough food to stay healthy. We need to feed these peo­ple and help them learn to feed them­selves. That is not al­ways easy. Many have no land to farm or jobs to earn in­come to buy food. But we have the ca­pac­ity to help them and do­ing so should be a far higher po­lit­i­cal pri­or­ity than it is to­day.

The UAE is cer­tainly do­ing more than its share. Ac­cord­ing to the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment [OECD], it is the most gen­er­ous coun­try in the world, con­tribut­ing 1.2 per cent of its Gross Na­tional In­come [GNI] to for­eign aid, and Emi­ratis make huge pri­vate dona­tions on top of that govern­ment aid. If all other coun­tries gave as much of their GNI to for­eign aid, we could fi­nally suc­ceed in end­ing hunger and poverty. It’s all about com­mit­ment. What ac­cord­ing to you is the big­gest hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis fac­ing the world to­day? Peo­ple fo­cus on Syria be­cause the civil war has been go­ing on for more than six years and it is so close to home and ut­terly dev­as­tat­ing. But in terms of sheer num­bers the spread­ing star­va­tion in East Africa and Ye­men is on an even greater scale. Up to 20 mil­lion peo­ple are fac­ing famine in South Su­dan, north­east Nige­ria, So­ma­lia and Ye­men. His High­ness Shaikh Mo­ham­mad has flown in emer­gency re­lief sup­plies for the United Na­tions and the In­ter­na­tional

Fed­er­a­tion of the Red Cres­cent three times in the last year to help South Su­danese refugees, and the UAE is con­tribut­ing to ef­forts to keep the famine from spread­ing. What have been the IHC’s big­gest achieve­ments? Prac­ti­cally, dur­ing the last pe­riod, there have been many achieve­ments that we suc­cess­fully ac­com­plished. We have re­sponded to many emer­gen­cies such as Haiti, Uganda, and South Su­dan; we have dis­patched hun­dreds of tonnes of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and re­lief; and we have suc­ceeded in strength­en­ing our emer­gency pre­pared­ness by sup­port­ing ca­pac­i­ty­build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and fa­cil­i­tat­ing ac­cess to the hu­man­i­tar­ian stud­ies for young tal­ents in­clud­ing Emer­gency Med­i­cal Teams and Mas­ter of Ad­vanced Stud­ies in Hu­man­i­tar­ian

My FAM­ILY gives me the most joy. I am so PROUD of His High­ness Shaikh Mo­ham­mad and to be a small PART of his life. I am grate­ful ev­ery day to be a wit­ness to his WORK and what he is BUILD­ING

Op­er­a­tions and Sup­ply Chain Man­age­ment.

Also, we have po­si­tioned the IHC, within the top world­wide hu­man­i­tar­ian plat­forms, as the largest lo­gis­tics hu­man­i­tar­ian plat­form com­pared with sim­i­lar en­ti­ties in South East Asia, Europe, West Africa, Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean. The IHC hosts the largest prepo­si­tioned hu­man­i­tar­ian stocks com­pared with these other lo­ca­tions and we have made pos­si­ble the co-lo­ca­tion of the main hu­man­i­tar­ian play­ers. Fi­nally, not only is Dubai one of the great lo­gis­tics cap­i­tals of the world but the IHC is sit­u­ated only 18km from Al Mak­toum Air­port and 21km from Jebel Ali Port, en­abling mem­bers to move ship­ments from sea to air in as lit­tle as 10 min­utes. You pro­posed a global hub for hu­man­i­tar­ian data on lo­gis­tics and aid de­liv­er­ies, and a data bank to al­low gov­ern­ments to doc­u­ment their hu­man­i­tar­ian work. How far for­ward has this moved? The Hu­man­i­tar­ian Data Bank was an­nounced dur­ing the World Govern­ment Sum­mit, in Dubai [in Fe­bru­ary]. It is a very am­bi­tious and chal­leng­ing project. The aims of the Data Bank are mul­ti­ple. The main prin­ci­ple is based on ‘in­for­ma­tion shar­ing in real time’, en­abling the hu­man­i­tar­ian com­mu­nity to de­liver the right items, at the right time, to the right place. The Dash­board is able to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on the hu­man­i­tar­ian strate­gic stocks and re­lief items prepo­si­tioned within the IHC, thus iden­ti­fy­ing im­me­di­ately any gaps. At a later stage the Hu­man­i­tar­ian Data Bank project will en­cour­age all hu­man­i­tar­ian hubs to share their in­for­ma­tion on a com­mon plat­form, thus avoid­ing du­pli­ca­tion of ef­forts. We hope to have the first dash­board run­ning by the end of this year. How much fund­ing is nec­es­sary to tackle the var­i­ous hu­man­i­tar­ian crises? In re­cent years, UN ap­peals for emer­gen­cies have been in the $25-bil­lion range per year. Sadly, not all of that money gets raised and we have this phe­nom­e­non of the UN and aid agen­cies like the Red Cres­cent, CARE and MSF all beg­ging the public for funds. No

govern­ment is obliged to help with these emer­gen­cies, so a great deal of time and en­ergy is wasted just try­ing to raise funds.

Worse yet, peo­ple are left starv­ing, home­less, and ill while we are run­ning around try­ing to gen­er­ate pub­lic­ity and dona­tions. We need a manda­tory fund that all UN mem­bers con­trib­ute to so we have more of the cash we need to move fast in emer­gen­cies. It is a more ra­tio­nal ap­proach. There is a UN emer­gency fund but it is not big enough and it is vol­un­tary so con­tri­bu­tions go up and down. It is not enough. Be­yond pro­vid­ing aid like food and wa­ter and shel­ter, what more can be done to help peo­ple in cri­sis sit­u­a­tions – like refugees – in the long term? Well, the real so­lu­tion for refugees rests, most of the time, in the hands of politi­cians. They must com­pro­mise and come to work­able po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tions to end civil wars and vi­o­lence. Then refugees can re­turn to their homes and start to re­build. I can as­sure you that few Syr­i­ans want to be in Turkey, Le­banon or Jor­dan. Nor do they want to be in Europe or the United States with­out jobs or hope. They want to go home. You once said ‘We have to move away from con­ven­tional ways of pro­vid­ing aid. In­no­va­tion is nec­es­sary for hu­man­i­tar­ian aid’. Can you pro­vide some ex­am­ples of in­no­va­tion? And how they have been suc­cess­ful? There are so many re­ally. Satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions and cell phone net­works are hugely im­por­tant in de­liv­er­ing aid in crises. But in the area of hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion, the most im­por­tant in­no­va­tions have been ready-to-use foods pi­o­neered by MSF and the ex­pand­ing for­ti­fi­ca­tion of foods. Spe­cialised foods are so crit­i­cal in help­ing young chil­dren re­cover and ward off dis­ease when they have gone hun­gry for too long. For­ti­fied foods help pro­vide the vi­ta­mins and min­er­als that poor peo­ple of­ten lack. Roughly 2 bil­lion peo­ple world­wide suf­fer from vi­ta­min and min­eral de­fi­cien­cies that can se­verely dam­age their bod­ies and minds. You have su­per­vised the de­liv­ery of aid to Haiti among sev­eral other places. Could you share with us your feel­ings of be­ing on the ground at the time? Haiti af­ter the earth­quake was like a war zone. It was sheer chaos – some­thing out of a Hol­ly­wood movie. The roads were jammed, se­cu­rity broke down and peo­ple were armed, the air­port was filled with planes fly­ing in as­sis­tance. Even the pres­i­dent’s of­fice had col­lapsed dur­ing the quake, and along with food, wa­ter pu­ri­fiers and medicines, we flew in a car­a­van for him to use as an of­fice on one of His High­ness Shaikh Mo­ham­mad’s cargo planes from Dubai. Chil­dren’s health is also an is­sue close to your heart. What ini­tia­tives do you have in mind for im­prov­ing the health of un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren? So many things need to be done but ba­sic hu­man­i­tar­ian needs come first, ob­vi­ously, and it’s dis­turb­ing that we still live in a world that lets mil­lions of chil­dren per­ish from star­va­tion and mil­lions more face un­known fu­tures as refugees look­ing for safety and shel­ter. But we also need to look at ac­cess for chil­dren to re­li­able, high-qual­ity health­care ser­vices no mat­ter where in the world they live.

This was the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind both the Al Jalila Foun­da­tion, which funds health­care ser­vices, ed­u­ca­tion and re­search, much of it with a pae­di­atric fo­cus, and the Al Jalila Chil­dren’s Spe­cialty Hos­pi­tal — the only spe­cialised pae­di­atric hos­pi­tal in our re­gion — which was opened last year as a gift from His High­ness Shaikh Mo­ham­mad to the chil­dren of the UAE.

The re­sponse to the hos­pi­tal has been re­mark­able. Almost from the first week it opened, Al Jalila Hos­pi­tal has re­ceived chil­dren from around the re­gion who would oth­er­wise have had to travel vast dis­tances to ac­cess ser­vices like heart surgery, neu­ro­log­i­cal treat­ment or men­tal health care.

As more ser­vices are launched in the com­ing year – a spe­cialised can­cer ser­vice for chil­dren is cur­rently un­der de­vel­op­ment – we hope the hos­pi­tal will come to play an im­por­tant role in pro­vid­ing hope for sick chil­dren and their fam­i­lies, both in the UAE and be­yond. What gives you most joy? My fam­ily gives me the most joy. I am so proud of His High­ness Shaikh Mo­ham­mad and to be a small part of his life. I am grate­ful ev­ery day to be a wit­ness to his work and what he is build­ing. To have his sup­port and that of the wider Mak­toum Fam­ily is an hon­our. I don’t say that for the ben­e­fit of an in­ter­view, I gen­uinely mean it, and look­ing at what they do, and how they hold above all their faith and sense of duty is some­thing that means ev­ery­thing to me be­cause it was the way that I was brought up.

To be able to watch your chil­dren grow up in a lov­ing and safe coun­try, sur­rounded by good peo­ple in a nat­u­ral way is also part of that joy. Dubai and the UAE is a fan­tas­tic place to call home, and I feel that ev­ery day, the re­ac­tion of every­one to us, both na­tion­als and ex­pats, and the way the com­mu­nity works is re­ally what makes it home, and that is all I have ever wanted. What makes you sad? Gen­er­ally in my life, I see a lot of tragedy on a daily ba­sis. Some­times it’s through work­ing with the hos­pi­tals that you have to deal with a car ac­ci­dent that has taken some­one young’s life, or watch par­ents who strug­gle to save their child with can­cer. Some­times it’s on the hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sions see­ing those who are starv­ing to death or fac­ing sit­u­a­tions that are hon­estly too tragic to even be­gin to un­der­stand. And these are the big things, but I also see, like every­one else, the suf­fer­ing of peo­ple in their ev­ery­day lives. Those who have not enough money to get mar­ried, or ed­u­cate their chil­dren, and strug­gle to make ends meet. I see peo­ple who are work­ing here and around the world that are far from their homes and choose to work to send small salaries home to sup­port their fam­i­lies.

Too many peo­ple have a bur­den that is ex­traor­di­nar­ily heavy to bear, even when on the sur­face they may seem like they have an easy time. Those things make me sad, and I try to no­tice and to al­ways put my­self in oth­ers’ shoes and see the world from their per­spec­tive be­cause I never want to lose touch with re­al­ity.

What helps me cope, is that ev­ery sad thing I see, I am able to go to His High­ness and ask for help, and he never says ‘no’. I have never known a per­son more gen­er­ous or giv­ing. And I hug my chil­dren ev­ery day, and give thanks for their fa­ther, who al­lows us all through his ac­tions and re­sponse to be a con­duit of his good heart. If you had one wish to change the world… To end world hunger, in a world where there is more than enough food for every­one. Turn the page to find out how four aid agen­cies, based at Dubai’s IHC, work to rush aid to hun­dreds of thousands of peo­ple across the world at a mo­ment’s no­tice.

Princess Haya dur­ing a World Food Pro­gramme mis­sion in Liberia. ‘If you are moved to help an­other mother to feed her chil­dren, there are many ways to make a dif­fer­ence,’ she says


Too many peo­ple have a bur­den that is ex­traor­di­nar­ily heavy to bear, even when on the sur­face they may seem like they have an easy time, says the Princess, pic­tured in Cam­bo­dia

A Princess’ joy: ‘To be able to watch your chil­dren grow up in a lov­ing and safe coun­try, sur­rounded by good peo­ple in a nat­u­ral way’. The mum of Shaikha Al Jalila and Shaikh Zayed reg­u­larly shares pic­tures of her fam­ily, in­clud­ing Shaikh Mo­ham­mad, on so­cial me­dia

Words can­not de­scribe the feel­ing one ex­pe­ri­ences when see­ing the House of Al­lah, Princess Haya said in an In­sta­gram post

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.