Home/Magazine /All/ Unhcr’s “refugee Zakat Fund” | Channeling Zakat Funds To Refugees

UNHCR’s “Refugee Zakat Fund” | Channeling Zakat Funds to Refugees

Apr 2022

During the Ramadan and Eid Dialog 2022, we talked to Mehdi Zidani, the Private Sector Partnership Officer Islamic Philanthropy UNHCR about channeling zakat funds to refugees.  

Can you briefly explain what UNCHR’s Refugee Zakat Fund is?

With the rapid growth of the global Islamic economy and philanthropy sector, and the increasing desire by Zakat donors and institutions to channel Zakat funds to refugees – nearly 60% of whom originate from Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries – UNHCR launched in 2019 the “Refugee Zakat Fund”: a trusted, compliant and effective distributor maximizing the power of Zakat to transform the lives of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The Fund is subject to rigorous governance, ensuring transparency at every step, from donation to distribution of Zakat funds to eligible families among the refugees and IDPs.

UNHCR implements several humanitarian programmes, including shelter, healthcare, education, economic inclusion, in addition to cash and in-kind assistance. The latter was identified as the best fit for Zakat distribution, assuring funds or goods received by the most UNHCR implements a strict 100% Zakat distribution policy by covering overhead costs associated with Zakat distribution from other non-Zakat sources.

Where do Zakat contributions mostly go to?

Since it was launched, the Refugee Zakat Fund has supported millions of eligible beneficiaries in more than 14 countries. Our partners choose the countries where they want their Zakat to be distributed in, or they can leave it to UNHCR to decide based on needs.

The four operations that received the most Zakat contributions since we started distributing Zakat in 2017 are:

1. Yemen: more than USD 55 million have been distributed in cash to eligible Yemeni internally displaced persons

2. Bangladesh: more than USD 32.8 million have been distributed mainly in goods to eligible Rohingya refugees, as well as in cash to host communities

3. Lebanon and Jordan, where more than USD 14.8 million (for each country) have been distributed in cash to eligible Syrian refugees.

Do you see an increase in contributions during Ramadan compared to other months? If so, how different is it?

The donations usually peak during Ramadan compared to the rest of the year, when it comes to the numbers of donors, average donation and the frequency of giving. In this regard last year UNHCR launched its ‘Every Second Counts’ Ramadan global fundraising campaign in support for refugees and IDPs. ‘Every Second Counts’ was UNHCR’s third global Ramadan campaign and focused on the impact individuals can create within seconds, in the lives of refugees and displaced families. Let me take this opportunity to thank all our partners in Asia and globally for their support in raising awareness and support for refugees and IDPs during last Ramadan.

Special note to CrescentRating for supporting UNHCR again this Ramadan: Crescent Rating launched their #pledgeyourlunch campaign on LaunchGood. All proceeds raised will support refugees and displaced communities.

I invite all other charitable organizations to join us this Ramadan to support refugees and IDPs.

Do you run specific campaigns to encourage Zakat payment during Ramadan?

Yes, our Ramadan campaign is highly focused on Zakat as well and we do a lot of tailored content around Zakat giving. Ramadan is an important moment of the year to remind charitable institutions and potential partners, whether government or private, to not forget refugees with their Zakat during Ramadan, and give them the option of the Refugee Zakat Fund and its 100% Zakat distribution policy to provide this crucial support.

What are the most urgent displaced crisis globally?

We live in a world where over 82.4 million have been forced to flee their homes. In this tragic context, displaced crises are numerous and several crises have remained urgent for several years. While the Syria crisis began eleven years ago, the needs of more than 13 million displaced Syrians inside and outside the country are still growing, remaining the world’s largest displacement crisis.

In Yemen, the conflict has displaced more than four million Yemenis in the past seven years, most of whom are women and children, and leaving more than 2 million children out of school, pushing a generation into uncertainty. This avertible conflict has killed or injured one civilian almost every hour in 2022. Today, two out of three Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Afghanistan, which has endured repeated humanitarian crises, faces its darkest time. Half of Afghanistan’s population experiences acute hunger. Some 3.4 million people are displaced due to conflict, and many children are out of school. There are 24 million people inside Afghanistan and 5.7 million Afghans and host communities in five neighbouring countries who need support. 

In Africa, the Sahel is facing one of the fastest growing displacement crises in the world – and yet it is one of the most forgotten. Intense and indiscriminate violence has forced more than 3 million people to flee across the region, both within countries and across borders. And now we have a new displacement crisis in Europe: as of 16 March, nearly 3.2 million refugees have now arrived from Ukraine to neighbouring countries, mainly Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania. Given the ongoing crisis, it is likely that the pace and magnitude of this refugee movement from Ukraine will continue to increase.

How has Asia responded to supporting refugees with Zakat?

Over the last year and a half since we started Islamic philanthropy activities in Asia, UNHCR was able to onboard 11 Islamic organisations to support us both with Zakat and Sadaqah funds to help refugees both locally and abroad, including BAZNAS, Rumah Zakat, LAZNAS, DT Peduli, Dompet Dhuafah and Human Initiative in Indonesia, MAIWP and NAMA Foundation in Malaysia, Rahmatan Lilalameen Foundation and – of course! – CrescentRating/Halaltrip in Singapore. We thank them for their support, which enables us to provide crucial support to nearly 20,000 beneficiaries in 6 countries in Asia and MENA.

We have seen great support especially both in the private and public sector to support the refugee cause. In fact many of the Islamic organisations we speak to in Asia are very supportive to the cause and believe refugees are eligible for Zakat and deserve to be saved from the crisis. We also managed to secure an endorsement by the Islamic Shariah Research Academy (ISRA) based in Malaysia for our Shariah compliance to distribute Zakat funding to refugees in need. This is a testament to UNHCR's robust Refugee Zakat Fund.

In closing, UNHCR is very excited to see the growth and support from Islamic entities.

Download the full report here.


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