of your substance.
Out of love for him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy .....
spend in charity for the benefit of your own souls .."
The King Fahd Mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
| The Holy Qur'an and the Hadith
(sayings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad) are filled with
references to charity and injunctions on believers to help those in
need. Islam's emphasis on providing a helping hand to others has carried
over into and has become an integral component of Arab tradition. These
religious and cultural values form the backbone of the Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia and its citizens are exposed to them from an early age. Thus it
comes as no surprise that for the past three decades the government and
people of Saudi Arabia have quietly been at the forefront of efforts to
help those in need, wherever they may be.
Although at the close of the 20th century, Saudi Arabia has become the second largest provider of assistance to underdeveloped and developing countries across the globe, its efforts to help the needy in other countries have humble origins. In the first half of this century, as the Kingdom underwent unification and nation building, its efforts to ease the suffering of others took the form of small donations by the government and the people that were within its limited means. As the Kingdom entered an era of development fueled by increasing oil revenues in the second half of this century, Saudi Arabia became more actively involved in helping others. Contributions grew steadily over the years in direct proportion to the Kingdom's growing wealth and the increasing affluence of its citizens.
Saudi relief and charitable organizations have established hundreds of schools, such as this one in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
| By the 1970s, the Kingdom was in a
position to provide a wide range of economic and development grants and
relief assistance to countries around the world. By the mid-1970s and
into the early 1980s, the government and people of Saudi Arabia were
providing billions of dollars in assistance to other nations every year.
With the willingness and desire to help others remaining strong, a
change began to take place that would affect the ability of Saudi Arabia
to do so. It involved the establishment of an efficient mechanism to
channel financial and material assistance to where it was needed most in
a timely fashion. Organizations, funds and banks were set up exclusively
to provide development aid and emergency relief.
The irrigation and road project in Guinea, West Africa, was financed by the Saudi Fund for Development.
| The existence of these bodies allows
the Kingdom to respond rapidly to help alleviate the suffering of people
afflicted by poverty, underdevelopment and natural and man-made
disasters. As demonstrated by the recent crisis in Kosovo and the
earthquakes that struck Greece in September and devastated Turkey in
August, Saudi Arabia is not only among the most generous suppliers of
aid, but also among the quickest.
Saudi assistance to other countries falls into one of two broad categories: relief for victims of man-made and natural disasters, and development aid to raise the living standards of people in underdeveloped nations by financing economic and social projects. Saudi Arabia has provided about 70 billion dollars in aid in both categories to more than 70 countries since 1973, making it the second largest supplier of aid in the world after the United States, and the world leader in terms of assistance as a percentage of the nation's gross national product (GNP).
Every year millions of people suffer from natural and man-made disasters that shatter their lives, destroy their homes and deprive them of the means of supporting themselves and their families. Over the past three decades, Saudi Arabia has been actively campaigning to relieve the suffering of such victims. It has provided billions of dollars in direct relief assistance, has contributed many billions more to international and regional agencies, and has worked at the global and regional diplomatic levels to alleviate the hardship endured by such victims and, in the case of wars and aggression, has tried to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.
|In the case of natural disasters, Saudi Arabia moves promptly to send relief supplies, such as food, medicine, tents and clothing. Usually, as in the case of the earthquake in Turkey in August, Saudi cargo planes are on site within hours of the disaster. Afterwards, the Saudi airlift continues as long as necessary. In cases where the disaster has a long-term impact, Saudi Arabia sends further supplies by ship or overland, if possible, and moves to the second phase of its relief program by establishing committees to collect financial donations and material contributions from the business community and individuals throughout the Kingdom.|
|Popular response to the call for help by these committees is rapid and generous. As an example, immediately after floods devastated Sudan in 1988, leaving millions homeless, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Ibn Abdul Aziz ordered the establishment of a special committee to collect donations, and set an example by making a personal contribution of eight million dollars. Tens of millions of dollars were deposited in special bank accounts by businesses and individuals. The money was used to buy relief supplies, which, along with the thousands of tons of supplies donated by philanthropists, were sent to Sudan. Over the next few months, Saudi cargo planes and ships transported more than 45,000 tons of food supplies to the beleaguered country.|
|As in many such instances, Saudi concern for the plight of the victims of such disasters does not end with the delivery of relief aid. An executive committee is usually formed to undertake extensive reconstruction projects. As an example,in the wake of the earthquake in Egypt, Saudi-financed reconstruction projects were completed within five years under a phased program accomplished in three stages, and covered 23 projects, which included the establishment of schools, clinics and mosques to replace those devastated during the disaster.|
|When Bangladesh was hit by one of the worst cyclones in recent times in September 1998, the Kingdom immediately sent food, tents and medicine. During the reconstruction phase that followed, King Fahd personally donated more than 100 million dollars, and millions more were donated by Saudi businesses and citizens for the construction of 455 cyclone shelters under the supervision of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), in addition to hundreds of schools, clinics and mosques. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has conducted similar campaigns in response to earthquakes, cyclones, floods, famine and epidemics in many countries afflicted by natural disasters throughout the world, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Chechnya, the Comores, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Pakistan, the Philippines and Somalia.|
|In the case of man-made disasters, the suffering of victims is just as intense as in natural calamities, and in most cases continues for a longer period. When a war or aggression leaves innocent victims, Saudi Arabia launches a many-faceted relief program that involves the cooperation of many agencies and organizations dedicated to humanitarian assistance. A classic case of this has been the recent rallying of help for the people of Kosovo, victims of aggression and genocide at the hands of the Serbs. Immediately after news of the suffering of the Kosovars became public, Saudi Arabia formed the Joint Relief Committee for Kosovo.|
|In addition to collecting donations from Saudi businesses and citizens, the committee supervised the efforts of a large number of organizations, including the Saudi Red Crescent Society, the International Islamic Relief Organization, the Muslim World League, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and numerous private Saudi charitable organizations dedicated to collecting money and donations in kind for humanitarian purposes.|
|By August 22, 1999, the committee had airlifted and shipped more than 45 million dollars in relief supplies. Daily airlifts transported milk, fruit juice, meat, pasta, rice, flour, dates, biscuits, sugar and cooking oil. The committee sponsored about 50,000 refugees and supplied more than 150,000 meals daily. It then sent several delegations to Albania to visit refugee camps and assess the needs of the Kosovars on the spot. On the recommendation of these panels, the committee set up and operated a hospital, 15 health centers and 15 ambulances, and supplied a medical team of 385 doctors, technicians and administrators. So far, it has also set up 12 schools and constructed 38 temporary mosques. The committee also arranged for the repatriation of the refugees from camps in Albania to their hometowns in Kosovo.|
|The operations of these specialized committees are complemented by the services of other Saudi government agencies, which provide help in their particular specialty. As an example, the Saudi Joint Relief Committee for Somalia provided some 50 million tons of relief supplies and 38 million dollars in funds in the wake of that country's civil war. Additionally, the Ministry of Agriculture and Water set up a vaccination program to preserve livestock and supplied seeds and technical support to Somali farmers in an effort to prevent famine. The Ministry of Health assisted the Red Crescent Society to set up clinics and staff them with Saudi physicians, nurses and technicians.|
|Over the years, the Saudi committees have acquired vital experience in collecting donations, and just as importantly, sending them to places where they are most needed. In the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Saudi committee set up regional offices in Croatia and later inside Bosnia, and arranged for the shipment of relief supplies from Saudi Arabia and for the purchase of more supplies in the immediate area. The experience acquired in Bosnia was of vital importance when disaster struck Kosovo. Drawing on that experience, Saudi relief organizations were able to marshal resources and manpower and set up facilities in Albania in a very short period of time.|
| Many of these committees are
committed to serving the victims of man-made disasters for as long as
necessary. As an example, since the inception of the crisis in
Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992, the Saudi Joint Committee for the Collection
of Donations for Bosnia has raised about half a billion dollars for the
people of that war-shattered country.
Beyond providing relief assistance, the committee is now involved in the development and reconstruction of the country. It has restored and built some 400 mosques, an Islamic school in Mostar and a teacher training college in Zenica. It has undertaken the maintenance of the Ploce-Pazaric railway line, installation of electricity and gas networks, and renovation of the Mostar hospital. In addition, it supervised the digging of wells and provision of water pumps and seeds.
|The committee has sponsored 4,739 Bosnian students at universities abroad and operates schools for Bosnian refugees in Croatia, Austria, Turkey and Hungary. It has also established three small sewing factories in Sarajevo, Zenica and Tuzla, providing job opportunities for 6,000 people. It has established computer training centers and other vocational training facilities. In the case of Kosovo, the committee is now involved in the reconstruction phase of its relief program. Using funds provided by the government and private donors, it is actively involved in the rebuilding of towns and villages devastated by the Serbs in order to help Kosovars put their shattered lives back together.|
| In addition to these
activities, various Saudi charitable organizations operate hundreds of
health centers, pharmacies, food distribution centers, orphanages,
shelters and schools in Asia, Africa and Europe. Development Assistance
While in the early 1970s Saudi development aid was provided in response
to a direct appeal to the government, the Kingdom now channels such
assistance through a large number of Saudi, international and regional
organizations that handle requests and provide aid to affected
countries. The largest organization in this regard is the Saudi Fund for
Development (SFD). Since its establishment in 1974, the fund has
provided more than six billion dollars in financing for development
projects in 63 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.
These funds have been used to finance the establishment of hundreds of roads, railways, seaports, airports, agricultural and irrigation projects, power generation units, water supply and sewage systems, schools, housing units, hospitals and clinics and other facilities. The size of these projects varies greatly - from clinics that serve several hundred villagers in Malaysia to a massive dam that provides electricity and water for tens of thousands in Guinea - but most are small- to medium-sized ventures designed to improve the lives of people who live in rural areas and small towns in the least developed countries in the world. Such areas generally lack modern social services and economic infrastructure, and the building of a school or road has great impact on the lives and livelihood of the inhabitants.
| Although the bulk of
development assistance is provided through the SFD and other specialized
Saudi organizations, the government occasionally provides such aid
directly to other governments through bilateral accords. Various
government agencies and charitable organizations also finance a number
of development projects throughout the world. Such projects have helped
establish more than 1,300 schools, 140 hospitals and clinics, and
hundreds of orphanages and shelters for widows in 97 countries.
Additionally, the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) provides
interest-free soft loans to finance development projects, specifically
to Muslim countries and Muslim minorities. In the past two decades, the
bank has extended more than 20 billion dollars in such loans.
Saudi Arabia also channels billions of dollars for development projects in underdeveloped countries through regional and international organizations. The Kingdom is a major contributor to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the International Finance Corporation, the International Development Agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Islamic Development Bank, the OPEC Fund for International Development, the African Development Bank, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Arab Monetary Fund and various United Nations development and relief agencies.
The variety and scope of Saudi Arabia's programs, whether in the wake of natural disasters, in response to wars and aggression, or as part of ongoing development assistance, reflect the nation's commitment to Islam and its teachings, including the injunction to helping those in need.