UAE launches range of initiatives to help solve water challenges

Dubai is ramping up activities in response to the drinking water shortage using charitable aid, education, research and technological innovation

There is no shortage of water on our planet. After all, the Earth’s surface is made of 70% of water. However, the accessible and fresh water humans need to survive only represents 2.5% of the total. Water.org says a staggering 780 million people worldwide lack access to clean water. That is one in ten people. Furthermore, every year, more than 3.4 million people die due to thirst and diseases by unclean water.

In the UAE, drinking water supply is unrestricted – nothing short of a miracle in a region amongst one of the most arid in the world. As His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum remarked, water in the Emirates is 'a great blessing'.

“Our ancestors knew its precious value because they were deprived of it,” he said.

Our ancestors knew its precious value because they were deprived of it

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

This is why, to help the less fortunate for whom getting access to safe and potable water is a daily struggle, the ruler of Dubai launched the UAE Water Aid campaign in June 2014. The Suqia initiative was a huge success. Through a text message campaign and generous donations by individuals and various organisations AED 180 million were raised in 18 days, enough to provide access to potable water for 7 million people around the world against an initial target of 5 million.

The money raised has contributed to the drilling of hundreds of wells in friendly and neighbouring countries to the UAE or places that suffer from infrastructure problems such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, northern Iraq, Syrian refugee camps in Erbil and in several African countries such as Niger, Togo, Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana. Overall, 61 countries have, over time, benefited from Emirati water programmes.

To build on this success, in March 2015 HH Sheikh Mohammed launched a permanent body dedicated to providing drinking water to people in need: the UAE Water Aid Foundation. Managed by Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), the Foundation is a non-profit organisation that launches events, as well as fund raising and awareness campaigns.

The most recent ones include the distribution of water to Ramadan tents and mosques in collaboration with associations and charities in the UAE, in addition to relief assistance to Yemen, said Mohammed Abdulkareem Al Shamsi, who was appointed Acting Executive Director of the UAE Water Aid Foundation in April 2015.  

The Foundation is also dedicated to developing projects related to long-term water management for communities suffering from scarcity and contamination of drinking water. In coordination and partnership with educational, academic, and international organisations such as the Emirates Red Crescent, it conducts studies and research, providing innovative technological solutions, such as desalination and purification of water using solar power.

All are promising technologies that can hopefully change the intolerable fact that, in our world, a child that dies every 21 seconds due to a water-linked illness.