Palestine Refugee Agency Expands Zakat Program

Palestine Refugee Agency Expands Zakat Program

In Gaza alone, over 1.3 million Palestinian refugees, who make up 70 percent of Gaza’s population, depend on UNRWA for food assistance. Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / AP

The National Zakat Foundation (NZF) Worldwide has renewed and expanded the zakat certification and eligibility for the food and cash assistance programmes of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, mandates that Muslims contribute 2.5 per cent of their net wealth in charitable giving to those struggling with poverty. In order to be zakat eligible, an organization or programme must be able to confirm that beneficiaries of zakat meet specific eligibility criteria of being “poor and needy.”

"The renewal of the zakat certificate and eligibility for UNRWA comes after reviewing and finding their food and cash programme continues to not only fundamentally align with Shariah but is very unique in its scope,” said Azim Kidwai, Chairman of NZF Worldwide.

UNRWA said that three-quarters of the Palestine refugee population is living below the poverty line, while more than 1.7 million rely on food and cash assistance from UNRWA to meet their basic needs.

“We are deeply grateful to NZF for the renewal of this certification,” said Karim Amer, UNRWA Director of Partnerships. “Our food and cash assistance programmes are a vital lifeline for Palestine refugees across the region. In Lebanon, for instance, UNRWA is on the ground distributing emergency cash assistance to Palestine refugees who are struggling immensely due to the economic crisis which has weakened people’s ability to access basic commodities such as food, housing and health care.”

Along with the zakat certificate from NZF, UNRWA has obtained two official fatwas (Islamic edict) from al-Azhar and al- Aqsa mosques supporting the eligibility of vulnerable Palestine refugees for zakat funds.

“The UNRWA commitment to Palestine refugees is unwavering and, therefore, moving forward with zakat is a great step,” reiterated Kidwai. “It is a significant opportunity for all Muslims worldwide to support Palestine refugees by contributing their zakat to UNRWA."

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall.

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