24 July 2006

Egypt: Islamist And NGO Aid to Lebanon Outweighs Government's

Cairo — The Egyptian government and its Red Crescent have been criticised by opponents and the media for responding relatively slowly to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Lebanon.

It took until 23 July, the twelfth day of bombing in Lebanon, for the Egyptian Red Crescent to send emergency assistance to Lebanon, according to the semi-official Al-Ahram newspaper. The Egyptian government did send two planes bearing goods early on in the crisis, but has done very little else since, it said.

"Unlike the local NGO community and the Muslim Brotherhood, the government and the Red Crescent have been incredibly slow to plan any emergency assistance for Lebanon," says Gamal Essam El-Din, veteran Egyptian journalist and analyst.

On the other hand, the Arab Doctors' Union, dominated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood an Islamic social and political group born in Egypt in 1928, has been instrumental in co-ordinating relief efforts from Egypt and across the region, where its members are based. It immediately dispatched a team of doctors to the country which is being attacked by Israel, to assess needs.

Abdel Salam says the assessment team sent to Lebanon last week was told by Lebanese medical professionals that the country is short of medicine but not doctors. "Most urgently needed are medicines to combat heart disease and diabetes, which are fast running out, as well as pain killers and antibiotics," says Abdel Salam.

The Muslim Brotherhood has appealed to the nation for financial donations to be made into a special account established for the Lebanon crisis.

Abdel Salam and Union head Abdel Moneim Abul Futouh, who is a prominent Brotherhood member, say money from Egyptians would be better than assistance in goods, as medicines can be bought from neighbouring Syria through the Damascus-based Syrian Doctors' Syndicate.

"We are issuing a call for assistance to NGOs, professional unions and citizens on behalf of the Lebanese Doctors' Union," says Gamal Abdel Salam, head of the Arab Doctors' Union's emergency relief programme.

The Lebanese, Syrian and Egyptian syndicates of the Arab Doctors' Union are already working to provide medical relief in Lebanon. Abdel Salam says theirs was the first Arab medical assistance team to arrive in Lebanon.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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