How UAE Water Aid can potentially help 2 billion Muslims

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The recently launched UAE Water Aid campaign is aiming to assist 5 million people in desperate need of clean water around the world, but the actual beneficiaries might well be the entire global Muslim population of 2 billion people.

This would certainly be the case if we look deeper into the noble and human essence of this campaign, launched by HE Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai as a nationwide charity initiative marking the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

See also: Al Arabiya News supports UAE Water Aid, here is how you can help

In fact, the campaign couldn’t have come at a better time than this, as the Muslim World suffers – perhaps now more than ever – a horrid and unprecedented hijacking of our religion by vicious extremists who have done nothing for Islam except tarnish its image and create misunderstanding and hatred.

Unfortunately, the Muslim World has come to a point where it has to decide, once and for all, where it stands in terms of direction, ideology and practices.

On one hand, we have the evil likes of ISIS and al-Qaeda, who will not hesitate to decapitate people of other faiths, or even their own, if they disagree with their terrorist practices of killing, grabbing land and consolidating power for nothing except for their own agenda.

On the other hand, you have those genuinely good people who are have opted to support a campaign like UAE Water Aid – a campaign which is truly borderless, as it pays no attention to race, color or religious belief of its beneficiaries.

As such, by supporting this campaign we would in other words be helping to save the lives of millions of people of all faiths and races who would have otherwise died of thirst or diseases related to the lack of clean water. Surely, such actions better reflect Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance than the despicable, horrific acts that the likes of ISIS falsely undergo in the name of the religion.

See also: Humanitarian hydro-aid: Is water scarcity drowning the Mideast?

Indeed, according to charity Water.Org there are 780 million people around the world who lack access to clean water (that is more than 2.5 times the population of the USA), while 3.4 million people die every year from a water related disease (and a child dies every 21 seconds from the same reason!)

Infographic: UAE water aid (Design by Farwa Rizwan/ Al Arabiya News)

As such, choosing which version of Islam to support is a decision for us make; and with nearly 90 million AED raised already during the first nine days of UAE Water Aid (which already covers the needs of nearly 70% of the 5 million people targeted by the campaign), I think the people in the UAE has clearly given an indicator of where their heart lies.

There are 780 million people around the world who lack access to clean water (that is more than 2.5 times the population of the USA
Faisal J. Abbas

The one thing I would really like to see is how the British or American press will cover the results of this noble campaign when it surpasses – as I expect – its target by the end of Ramadan.

Surely saving the lives of 5 million people around the world must be a story worth writing about, and given all the negative stories about Islam and Muslims in international press, I think it is only fair that initiatives like UAE Water Aid get their fair share of column inches.

Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English, he is a renowned blogger and an award-winning journalist who is working on an upcoming book on Arab Media. Faisal covered the Middle East extensively working for Future Television of Lebanon and both Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat pan-Arab dailies. He blogs for The Huffington Post since 2008, a recipient of many media awards and a member of the British Society of Authors, National Union of Journalists, the John Adams Society as well as an associate member of the Cambridge Union Society. He can be reached on @FaisalJAbbas on Twitter.

Last Update: Sunday, 6 July 2014

Humanitarian hydro-aid: Is water scarcity drowning the Mideast? – Al Arabiya

by Dr. Hussein A. Amery | Special to Al Arabiya News
Friday, 4 July 2014

Water is at the core of every living thing and is often a blessing – yet its absence, excess availability or contamination, can be calamitous. So much so that a U.N. Human Development Report states that “Across much of the developing world unclean water is an immeasurably greater threat to human security than violent conflict”. Hence the current global water crisis is mostly a (mis)management crisis.

Having an adequate water infrastructure is an important step towards water development and management. The UAE Suqia Water Aid initiative that was initiated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE will provide needy countries with water pumps, water purification systems, and will help them dig water wells. These technologies cover water quantity and quality, and would undoubtedly provide welcome relief to Arabs and non-Arabs who don’t have access to clean water supplies.

Read also: UAE launches water aid campaign as Ramadan gift to the world

Read also: Al Arabiya News supports UAE Water Aid, here is how you can help
An arid region

More than 85 percent of the Arab region is classified as arid and hyper arid where it receives an average annual rainfall of less than 250 millimeters/year (mm/y). Furthermore, precipitation across the Arab world varies greatly. The average annual precipitation in Egypt and the Gulf countries is around 18 mm/y, but in Lebanon it is 827 mm/year. About 60 percent of Arab countries fall under the “absolute scarcity” threshold of 500 cubic meters of renewable water per capita per year; this level drops 7, 19, 31, 85, 88 cubic meters per capita for Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, respectively. Desalination technologies and other technological interventions allowed the Gulf states to overcome their severe physical water scarcity.

Infographic: UAE water aid (Design by Farwa Rizwan/ Al Arabiya News)

Population growth in the Arab world is rather high especially in poorer countries such as Yemen and Sudan, and in wealthier ones such as those in the Gulf states where the massive influx of foreign workers drive most of that growth. Around 60 percent of the water in Arab countries originates beyond their border in non-Arab lands. What meager amounts of water exist in the Arab region are often mismanaged which aggravates the prevailing scarcity. Despite this, the region’s hydro-climatic challenges are not unique.

Although a lot of the world’s population has gained access to water and sanitation in recent decades, the number of people who depend on unimproved sources of drinking water has reached 748 million. Meaning, all these people get their freshwater from lakes, rivers, dams, or unprotected dug wells or springs to drink, cook, and to use for personal hygiene. Tragically, three children die every minute from preventable, water-related diseases.
Safe freshwater

An average person needs 20-50 liters of safe freshwater per day for drinking, cooking and cleaning. While a mere 2-4 liters per person are needed for drinking purposes, some 2,700 liters of water are required to produce food for one person. Given that it is recommended that each person should consume 2,700 calories a day, and that one calorie of food requires one liter of water to produce, it becomes evident that huge amounts of water are required to feed the world’s population.

UAE Water Aid will work with the UAE Red Crescent to build more water treatment plants, dig new wells, and water reservoirs throughout the world. (Al Arabiya)

The Suqia Initiative will make a contribution towards this challenge. It will provide freshwater to five million people around the world. Given the desperate need for water, this foreign aid initiative will lift people’s quality of life and is likely save lives.

The act of abstaining from worldly pleasures such as food and water during daylight hours unites all Muslims, humbles their souls, and makes them more spiritual as they bear the hardship of fasting. Unveiling the Suqia Initiative in time to coincide with the holy month of Ramada is strategic as it capitalizes on the extra generous disposition Muslims have during this fasting month. Although the initiative is only a few days old, it has been reported that a lot of people, as well as Emirati, Gulf, and multi-national corporations have donated substantial sums of money towards this water charity.
Rapid human development

A recent U.N. report states that the the population of the Arab countries has nearly tripled since 1970, climbing from 128 million to 359 million. The Arab region is expected to have 598 million inhabitants by 2050. In recent decades, population growth rate in Arab countries was so fast that the time it took for some country’s population to double in size was 22 years. In addition to this, the changing and improving quality of life of Arabs, especially in the Gulf States, converged to apply significant pressure on existing water resources.

The rising levels of human development, urbanization and education enhances people’s awareness about the importance of hygiene. Similarly, higher personal incomes result in greater consumption of protein. The average Arab consumes a lot more meat today than his grandparents did, and fast food restaurants, or burger joints in particular, have become popular attractions for many, especially for the youth. Protein is very water intensive as it takes 15,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of beef but only 1,500 liters to produce a kilogram of bread.

Like other Gulf States, the UAE has been taking measures to boost its water security, and these include outsourcing the farming of low-value crops such as wheat and barley. Recently, the firm al-Dahra Agriculture bought eight farming companies in Serbia for $400m, and has invested in an Indian rice producer. Given that its takes 1,000 tons of water to grow a ton of wheat, it is easier and cheaper for countries to import food than freshwater.

Furthermore, the farming sector has been undergoing some serious reforms. Some governments are expanding the coverage of efficient irrigation technologies such as drip irrigation, while others are retrofitting homes and business with efficient toilets, taps, and showerheads. Also, the Saudi government has effectively banned farmers from growing low-value yet water-intensive crops such as wheat and alfalfa, and the UAE government has stopped farmers from planting Rhodes grass in a bid to reduce the consumption of water.

While these initiatives are a marked step forward, charity is still heavily relied upon.

The name, Suqia, and the timing of this initiative invoke Islamic principles and frames the charitable effort in a cultural context that would resonate with anyone who has a humanitarian bent. Making this initiative a mainstream cause can help sensitize wealthier Arabs and Muslims to the needs of the less fortunate.

Al Arabiya News, the English language platform of the region’s leading news channel, is backing a UAE nationwide campaign to help prevent deaths globally via securing clean drinking water to more than five million people around the world. Here is how you can help.

Dr. Hussein A. Amery is the Associate Director of the Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies at the Colorado School of Mines. He joined the School in 1997 and has served as Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, Division Director, and as Director of its graduate program. His academic expertise is in water security in the Middle East (focus on the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council – GCC), indicators of increased risk of water wars in the Middle East, water management of transboundary water resources and the role of culture in water management – Islamic perspectives on nature, among other areas. Dr. Amery has served as consultant on desalination and other water issues to various branches of the American and Canadian governments, and to different engineering and development organizations. He has reviewed numerous funding proposals for different agencies in Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the USA . including America’s National Science Foundation. He has also reviewed papers for journals that focus on water, the Middle East, and on development. In 2005, he was selected as Fellow by the International Water Association.

Last Update: Friday, 4 July 2014