Home in the Middle East: Serving the best interests of the people and its region
by Charbel Matar, Business Development & Sales Manager – MENA & Africa at NRS International
As a company based in the Middle East, we value the best interests of the people and its region. The situation in the region is very dire, with complex humanitarian crises unfolding simultaneously. The ongoing conflict in Syria remains one of the largest and most volatile in the world, with the highest forcibly displaced population of 12.6 million at the end of 2017, according to UNHCR’s latest Global Trends Report. In Yemen, the civil war is taking a toll on young children as humanitarian crisis worsens. According to a recent statement by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, “the war in Yemen is now the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22 million people — three-quarters of the population — in desperate need of aid and protection.” Also, the instability in Iraq is triggering new waves of displacement.
“This forced our organization to rethink our support to the region we call our home. We have adopted new strategies, which resulted in growing our footprint in the market exponentially.”
NRS International’s field visit to informal settlements in the Bekaa valley, Jordan. View photo gallery
Firstly, we focused on intensifying personal relationships with our clients by meeting them on a regular basis, here in the UAE but also across the border. Secondly, we invested in stronger local networks. In key humanitarian hotspots such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Iraq, localized procurement is encouraged. This empowers the local economy and embraces a community inclusive response. Hence, we work closely with agents and distributors, who are already embedded in the area economies and have the capacity to move aid efficiently. These agents can manage local challenges with NGOs, have better access to crisis zones through their established delivery channels, which are sometimes combined with UN convoys.
Visiting the ‘forgotten camps’
Regardless how well thought-through our approach might be, it is also our obligation to visit the field ourselves to get a true understanding of beneficiaries’ needs. In May 2017, I attended a conference organized by the Union of Relief and Development Associations in my home country, Lebanon. As part of the program I had the chance to participate in a field visit to informal settlements in the Bekaa valley, home to thousands of Syrian refugees and known as one of the forgotten camps in Lebanon.
Fire Retardancy to prevent tragic fires
When I arrived, the situation was precarious as the settlement was still recovering from a fire that afflicted the camp two years prior. We noticed many poor-quality relief items, unlike the products we provide. Fortunately, we were able to highlight our quality product portfolio. This includes our award-winning fire retardancy tents and tarpaulins, that might have prevented the tragic camp fire. All in all, it was a humbling experience to witness how essential high-quality relief items are to the residents of the Taalabaya camp and the Aramoun.
Acting as advisors
Closer to home, we have invested in key actors in the United Arab Emirates, such as Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), a major responder to crises globally. Jointly we have developed custom made tarpaulins and we act as advisors regarding non-food items. A practical example of the knowledge exchange is an ERC-driven shelter project that empowers local communities in Bangladesh. By using locally available resources such as bamboo, along with our tarpaulins, safe, strong and sustainable shelters were created as a temporary housing solution. This is how the private and the humanitarian sector can create real impact.
This story originally appeared in our Annual Report 2016-2017 publication.
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