BERBERA: Charity malpractices have become commonplace in Somaliland and it was discovered that local charity agencies in Somaliland have been collecting funds from Arab countries in the name of women and children empowerment and are using it to line their own pockets instead. On further investigation for our series of reports on the charity scams running in Somalia, we exclusively uncovered more information.
“Zahra H.F. who has been running a charity organization called Khadija Foundation since 2010 is collecting money from the United Arab Emirates for different causes like education, health, orphans, families, student support, disabled children and appeals but a major portion of these funds is not reaching the needy”, said Abdlla Jamea, a resident of Sheikh district, who was working in the UAE for several years.
“Zahra was working with UAE Red Crescent initially and then launched a charity organization here in Somaliland. But now, it seems that the authorities are not watching or monitoring her activities properly”, added Abdlla Jamea.
“The money she is collecting in the name of women and orphans are used for her personal purposes instead. She is getting strong support from inside Red Crescent and some staff have been supporting her indirectly for unknown benefits. We had sent several complaints to the Emirates Red Crescent, but no response so far,” Mr. Jamea added.
“Other Arab countries like Sultanate of Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait is sending money directly to orphan’s account. But Red Crescent is sending donations to Khadija Foundation’s account. This is because of the strong relation between Red Crescent and the Khadija Foundation.In addition to Red Crescent, Khadija foundation is getting funds from other emirates in the UAE and some other eminent personalities,” Mr. Jamea continued.
Emirates Red Crescent Volunteer
Zahra was working with Emirates Red Crescent as a volunteer for six years and then launched a charity organization – Khadjia Foundation – in Somaliland.
On foundation’s advertisements and brochures, the Khadija Foundation claims that they have helped 14,000 orphans (according to the foundation website), empowered 75 children of determination and supported 732 disadvantaged families so far.
Out of this 14000, Red Crescent is donating funds for 8500 orphans and 732 families. Khadijah Foundation has been receiving approximately 5million US$ per year from Red Crescent alone.
Flouting the country rules:
According to the law, to establish a charity foundation, there should be a minimum of five directors. The Khadija Foundation has only three directors and they are all close related- it’s Zahra, her husband and her brother! They consider it like their private business.
Sources close to the foundation also disclosed that she is taking a huge commission for her “voluntary” work. “It touches around 500,000 US$ per year.”
When we visited many of her establishments we found that she has no permanent staff!. An employee who worked with the foundation for a month said that “Madam appoints us for a month in a year. This is to show Red Crescent that she is maintaining staff. After the annual checking by Red Crescent, she fires us. Again next year, she may call us for one month of duty”.
Cheating poor families:
The recent housing scheme which has been set up to provide housing for around 420 poor families, is registered in her foundation’s name. We met many residents here and they said that the houses should be registered in their name instead of the foundation. “ She is using our money to build houses in foundation’s name” said a furious resident.
Currently, she is not distributing the monthly allowance to many families. She is telling them that their monthly allowance is used to build houses for them. It is not very clear whether Red Crescent or any other organisation had provided separate funds to build the houses. However, currently she is using the allowance of poor families to construct the houses and orphans and poor families who are in trouble.
A former employee, A.A, who worked with the foundation in the past, said that she has no plans to give any house to anyone. She may rent it to the poor people and will cut the “rent” from the Red Crescent’s living allowance. Currently, she is using orphans’ name only to avoid government taxes, according to the former employee.
This is her modus operandi. She played the same trick when she built a school in Burao with the support of Emirates Red Crescent. Cleverly, she named it as Sheikh Zayed School to seek additional funds from the Sheikh Zayed Fund and she used the “allowance money” of orphans to build the school!
Sources close to the foundation also said that she has named this housing scheme as “Sheikh Zayed Village”, and this was probably done to raise more money from the Sheikh Zayed Fund in the United Arab Emirates in the future. Currently, she is taking advantage of the lack of coordination between different international charity agencies and government departments.
It is easy to cheat the donor countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as they are unable to do a “physical check” due to the country’s political situation. The agencies are misusing this situation to their advantage. The donors have no choice but to believe the photo they are presented claiming the charity project is complete.