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UN Zakat fund helped millions of refugees in 2020: report

UNHCR says it has a global budget requirement of $9.1 billion for 2021 [Getty/ Archive]

Date of publication: 31 March, 2021

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Institutional donors gave $61.5 million in Zakat to UNHCR in 2020, according to a new annual report on Islamic philanthropy.


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The United Nations' refugee agency supported some 2.1 million displaced people through Islamic Zakat donations in 2020, according to a report published on Monday.

The report, entitled "Islamic Philanthropy - Transforming the Lives of the World's Displaced", said that $61.5 million was raised by UNHCR in Zakat and Sadaqah donations - a 12.5 percent increase from 2019.

"We are immensely grateful for the unwavering support and trust of our donors and institutional partners, which allowed us to support over 2 million refugees and IDPs," said 
UNHCR’s Senior Advisor on Islamic Philanthropy and Representative to the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries, Khaled Khalifa.

"This growing impact is testament to the pivotal role and potential of Islamic Philanthropy in addressing pressing humanitarian crises," he added.

The giving of Zakat is one of Islam's five key pillars and requires those who meet certain criteria to donate 2.5 percent of their wealth annually. Sadaqah donations are often voluntary acts of generosity encouraged by the faith.

It is estimated that Muslims around the world donate around $76 billion in Zakat annually.

The Zakat contributions received by UNHCR were used to provide cash assistance and vital goods to refugees and internally displaced people. Funds were also used to support individuals and families struggling under the extra strain of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the positive growth of UNCHR's funds through Islamic philanthropy, the UN body has warned that the ongoing pandemic has increased the needs of refugees around the world with funds often falling short.

UNHCR has projected that it will require a global budget of $9.1 billion for 2021, roughly a third of which is needed in countries where Zakat funds are disbursed.

"With the Holy month of Ramadan upon us, we urge everyone to continue supporting refugees and displaced families who will welcome Ramadan in incredibly difficult circumstances, either through prayers, kindness, or Sadaqah and Zakat,'' Khalifa said.

The UNHCR official also urged countries and donors not to "focus internally" amid the pandemic.

"We are calling on donors – individuals or governments – to really consider the plight of refugees at these very difficult times," Khalifa added.

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