A recent report by the World Bank highlighted the importance and high volume of humanitarian assistance that has come out of the Arab world during the past four decades. The report emphasized that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have been among the most generous in the world, with official development assistance (ODA) averaging 1.5 percent of their combined gross national income (GNI) during the period 1973-2008, more than twice the United Nations target of 0.7 percent.
The World Bank report stated, "The Kingdom has become a significant donor to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and is the biggest contributor in the Middle East and the 16th largest overall." The report also noted that Saudi Arabia has contributed more than $2 billion to the International Development Association (IDA), a key humanitarian organization run out of the World Bank.
In addition to government assistance, Arab nations have established a number of specialized institutions to provide development assistance to low-income countries. Humanitarian assistance through these independent institutions has increased by 4.4 percent per year between 1990 and 2008. On July 1, 2010, the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) announced that it had provided $8.23 billion to 75 countries between 1975 and 2009.
This week at the United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke of the importance of reducing poverty around the world and heeding the call of nations affected by natural disasters, despite tough economic times. He said: "Being true means supporting the vulnerable despite the economic crisis. We should not balance budgets on the backs of the poor. We must not draw back from official development assistance – a lifeline of billions, for billions."
Saudi Arabia has heeded the call of those natural disasters for decades, and did not waver when floods devastated Pakistan in August. The Kingdom immediately sent blankets, food stuffs and other critical items, such as medical supplies. To date, Saudi Arabia has contributed more than $240 million and more than 700 tons of food stuffs to people affected by the flooding. In addition, Saudi-led rescue operations have saved more than 550 people trapped as a result of the flooding. On September 21, a team of 30 doctors from the King Faisal Specialist Hospital went to Pakistan to help the flood victims. The Saudi medical team brought water filters, which will provide clean water to 15,000 people a day, as well as pumps to remove stagnant water.