By Ifeanyi Nwoko
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), has launched a Zakat fund to support refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria.
The fund which is to be drawn from the freewill donation of a percentage of Zakat paid by Muslims, was launched in Abuja on Thursday.
UNHCR Country Representative, Ms. Chansa Kapaya said that the fund was needed to cater to the rising number of refugees in the country.
She said that the initiative was to bridge the funding gap for humanitarian interventions.
Kapaya said that the UN had been exploring various avenues to augment its funding, just like the recently launch One Billion Dollar intervention fund for vulnerable people in the North East
“The Refugee and IDP Zakat Fund is a part of UNHCR’s global Islamic philanthropic engagement and faith-based giving.
“Faith is a strong conduit in actualizing giving. I have seen first-hand in Nigeria whereby faith-based organizations both Christian and Muslim have supported UNHCR’s work in responding to the refugee and IDP situation in the country.
“I also have had the opportunity to have met with several Muslim community leaders who have pledged support and partnership to respond to the humanitarian needs and IDPs situation.
“Now with the Refugee and IDP Zakat Fund, we can further this commitment through a philanthropic tool that will allow Zakat contributions to be used to support the IDP families.”
She expressed gratitude for the interest shown by many with regards to the fund, stressing that the Zakat fund would be a game changer in actualising private sector support to most vulnerable communities.
Giving insight into the state of vulnerability in Nigeria, Kapaya said that there were 2.1million IDPs in the North East, 728,688 in the North West and North Central, 1.7 million Nigerian refugee returnees as well as 69,000 Cameroonian refugees.
She added that about 300,000 Nigerians have also sought refuge in neighbouring countries, adding that the total number of IDPs was 2.9 million.
The UN representative pointed out that the funds needed to carter for displaced persons were unfortunately dwindling, hence the need to seek alternative funding.
“As we witness increasing levels of internal displacement in the country, we struggle to adequately respond to the growing humanitarian needs.
“UNHCR has been chronically underfunded, and so far for this year, we have only received 14 per cent out of the 96.4 million dollars we need in 2021 to support the various populations of concern.
“What continues to give me hope is that even though we are faced with the challenges of internal displacement, the willingness and generosity of Nigerians to respond has not wavered,” she said.
In his remark, Mr Khaled Khalifa, Senior Advisor to UNHCR and the Gulf Corporation Council Countries, said that the fund was an opportunity to provide the needed humanitarian interventions.
According to him, if all Muslim faithfuls gave out the right zakat, there would be no one living below the poverty line, adding that zakat was not only about giving money.
Khalifa stressed that the zakat fund was also opened to non-Muslims willing to contribute as part of their charity work.
He called on all Muslims to use the opportunity of the Ramadam to donate to the fund, so as to assuage the sufferings of IDPs in the North.
Alhaji Muhammad Maidoki, the Executive Chairman, Sokoto State Zakat and Waqf Commission, said that IDPs were among the categories of people that should benefit from Zakat.
He called on Nigerians especially Muslim faithfuls to donate to the fund, so as to alleviate the plight of refugees and displaced persons.
Maidoki announced a donation of one million naira to the UN Zakat fund. (NAN)