Arab League launches fund-raising campaign for Iraqi refugees
CAIRO, Egypt, January 11 (UNHCR) - The League of Arab States, working with UNHCR and other international organizations, on Friday launched a major fund-raising and public awareness campaign to help hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees.
The League and its partners hope that the "Arabs Hand-in-Hand with Iraqis" campaign, the brainchild of popular Arab Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma, will raise millions of dollars.
The 90-day campaign began Friday with non-stop programming about Iraqi refugees on three Arab satellite channels, including the Egyptian Satellite Channel (ESC). Bank staff were on hand to receive donations from viewers and the total amount of pledges made on the first day was expected to be announced on Friday night.
More than a dozen national channels in the Arab world are also taking part, along with celebrities, artists and public figures. Iraqi refugees appeared on the special programmes, while many celebrities called in with endorsements and messages of support.
The aim of the campaign is to seek donations from viewers and to raise awareness about the plight of Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries - especially top host countries, Syria and Jordan - through advertising, feature stories, documentaries and testimonials from refugees.
"Let us keep this day as the beginning of a campaign of solidarity from the Arab world with all Iraqis," Amre Moussa, secretary-general of the Cairo-based League of Arab States, said in a televised message.
In a separate video message, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres noted the extreme suffering of the Iraqi people, including some 2 million refugees overseas and more than 2.2 million displaced within their country. "I appeal to you to support your Iraqi brothers and sisters.... Your voice and helping hand can make a profound difference," he said.
The UN refugee agency has provided the campaign with 15 hours of video material as well as photographs and awareness literature. The video material includes footage of oud player Shamma's December visit to Syria to meet Iraqi refugees as well as shorts about the situation of Iraqis in the region.
Shamma appeared alongside UNHCR officials Friday on the ESC programme, "Good Morning Egypt," raising awareness and calling for donations. The popular musician approached the League of Arab States in October offering to help after watching a documentary on Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries.
Last September, League members agreed to set up a special account for governments, private sector and individuals to contribute funds in support of displaced Iraqis in neighbouring countries.
Most of the refugees outside Iraq are in Syria and Jordan and are living in urban areas such as Damascus and Amman. Many of them are running out of money and finding it increasingly difficult to get by.
In addition to direct assistance to some of the most vulnerable refugees, UNHCR is helping governments in the region to cope with the huge numbers of Iraqis who have strained local resources and infrastructure, including education and health systems.