A meal called Salma
By Shadiah Abdullah Al Jaberi
Dubai — The Islamic concept of Ihsan (“excellence”) has been refreshed with new meaning by the Salma Humanitarian Relief Program of the Dubai Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (AMAF).
The award-winning initiative distributes ready-to-eat halal meals to those affected by wars and disasters worldwide. For those suffering the indignities of war and displacement, the delicious and nourishing meals serve as a ray of temporary relief. And as war does not differentiate between caste, creed and color, so doesn’t Salma, which also offers vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices to suit every taste and faith.
And to be able to cater to more people, the foundation added and launched two new food products to its menu of meals at the 14th edition of the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD 2017).
Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, Tayeb Al-Rais, Secretary General of AMAF, pointed out that there are more than a billion people who go hungry in the world every day, most of whom are children.
“Through Salma, we are eliminating poverty and hunger in the world, enhancing food security, minimizing wastage in food aid and protecting those affected by crises from malnourishment due to a lack of access to fresh water and cooking supplies”, he said.
The idea of Salma was born, using halal meat from the best sharia-compliant meat-processing factories in New Zealand. Comprising meat, rice and vegetables, each 200 gram pre-packed meal pack meets the daily nutritional and energy requirements of all age groups, including those of children and older people.
Designed for use in challenging conditions, the plastic packaging is made in South Korea, using cutting-edge technology originally developed by NASA. The hermetically sealed pouches are highly pressure- and temperature- resistant, and can be stored for up to three years without refrigeration and without affecting the freshness of the contents.
The organization went to the extra mile of providing delicious meals that bear the hallmark of Dubai’s high standards of quality. As a result, they faced adverse comments from some who said they were spoiling the refugees by offering them such variety and richness.
“Just because those people are poor and beleaguered by disasters or war does not mean that we will cut corners and feed them inferior products! We have to put ourselves in their shoes and feed them what we would want to be fed,” Al-Rais said.
During the past three years, Salma has provided more than 455,000 halal meals and distributed 50 tons of meat to victims of wars, crises and natural disasters around the world — this includes 200,000 meals to Palestine, 70,200 to Yemen, 63,000 to Tajikistan, 61,600 meals and 50 tons of meat to Jordan, 41,400 meals to West African countries, 12,400 meals to Sudan, and 7,000 meals to the Philippines.
Al-Rais added: “The aid programs and initiatives of the UAE government align with our leadership’s vision and directives, and reinforce the country’s global humanitarian mission. At AMAF we do not look at color, race, or religion as Islam enjoins us to help humanity, the poor and the needy, and by doing this we fulfill our religious and humanitarian obligations.”
Since the launch of the Salma Humanitarian Relief Program in July 2014 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in cooperation with the UAE Red Crescent Authority, UN World Food Program and Dubai Charity Association, the program has gained acclaim as a landmark effort that positively impacts the lives of a significant number of people in need. Drawing the logistical support of Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, it is aligned with the sustainable and humanitarian principles of the Dubai: Capital of Islamic Economy initiative.
Speaking about AMAF’s highlights this year, Al-Rais revealed that in addition to providing meals, the Salma program is planning to establish and operate a halal food supply chain that can be activated whenever and wherever disasters or humanitarian crises occur. He noted that with the support and active cooperation of several international agencies and organizations, Salma has succeeded in raising more than AED12 million in donations and income.
Financially therefore, the second stage of the project provides a dual source of revenue – from donations and from recycling profits. This process is repeated until the project reaches an advanced stage of financial independence, at which point donations supplement and strengthen the program – expanding its reach to include even more beneficiaries and help them survive calamities without the risk of starvation.
Abdul Wahab Soufan, Director, Salma Humanitarian Relief Program, said: “With a three-year shelf life, the meals we distribute as part of the Salma program do not require to be cooked, do not require consumers to be literate to know their ingredients, are halal and therefore have gained the confidence of Muslim populations affected by conflicts and disasters who earlier used to refuse meals provided by relief organizations as they were not halal.”
Soufan added: “Meeting best-in-class international food quality standards, our halal meals are subject to strict production controls that make them among the healthiest products worldwide. Distribution priorities, in case of several disasters taking place at the same time, are determined in coordination with official international and local relief organizations and the Emirates Red Crescent.”
The Salma Humanitarian Relief Program has won several important regional and international awards for its excellence in the distribution of food aid. Significant ones include the 2014 Islamic Economy Award for Health and Food, and the 2015 Dubai Lynx Award for the Best Design of Food Containers.
The program also won three other awards in the 5th edition of the Chief Marketing Officer Council (CMO Asia) awards for best socially responsible practices of companies in Asia in 2015.
The program was named Salma to honor the memory of the Emirati nurse Salma Al Sharhaan (1934-2014) who dedicated her life to supporting and helping those in need through her work in the rural areas of the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. The Salma Humanitarian Relief Program reflects the high human values embodied by Al Sharhaan throughout her life, as well as the positive values of the UAE’s peace-loving culture which has also made it one of the biggest aid providers in the world.