JEDDAH: Ihsan bin Saleh Taib, the newly appointed secretary general of the International Islamic Relief Organization in Saudi Arabia (IIROSA), has denied rumors that the organization is not performing its relief as it should and that its existence in a number of Islamic and international countries is just symbolic. In his first press interview in the aftermath of his appointment as IIROSA secretary general, Taib told Nadim Al-Hamid of Arab News that he is sure that the organization, with its accredited humanitarian work, distances itself from rumors, and, above all, suspicion. Taib added that its work speaks for itself and that nobody can dispute that, pointing in this regard to the support provided by the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Saudi people.
Taib said the IIROSA would not and did not stop from providing humanitarian aid for anywhere or at any time, referring that its aid campaigns reached 149 countries with more than 42 million people benefiting from it.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
You recently assumed your position as the secretary general of IIROSA. What are your priorities to promote and enhance humanitarian and relief works at present and what are your plans and programs to improve and develop relief operations in the future?
“Undoubtedly, our path of work faces a lot of hardships, but we are keen to continue our good deeds without stopping or tiring. When I assumed this task, I walked steadily toward it, loaded with ideas that correspond with this new phase of the organization’s lifetime, as well as opinions and proposals to support its work. We should not forget that the organization has an integrated vision in place represented in its strategic plan, a vision that can elevate its status, programs and field projects. It can accomplish that by restructuring its administrative and technical works at all levels to be one of the first 10 organizations in areas of relief, reconstruction and development.
“It intends to establish a specialized center for training persons in the fields of relief, charity, and philanthropy. It will train also about 50 percent of its staff, and issue and develop codes and regulations to acquire professional competencies, so that the offices of the general secretary acquires an ISO accreditation.
“It will allocate 30 percent of donations and not allocated investments to the benefit of reconstruction and development programs and their marketing. Also, it has the goal of making its projects widespread to cover 90 percent of needy Islamic communities, as well as establishing five modern complexes.
The organization is very careful that its activities be in line with the needs of the communities it is working with, by complying with the codes and regulations of philanthropy works in the hosting countries, signing partnerships with a hundred new bodies, adopting an international ethical compact to protect philanthropy, and establishing an information and communication center. It also plans to establish a studies and information center to become a hub for expertise as well as for developing investment and endowment programs to reach 30 percent of annual revenues, raise self growth rate to 25 percent, and targeting new categories of funding from outside the Kingdom, from credited organizations and institutions as well as donors.”
What are the main obstacles facing the organization today? How can you overcome them?
“IIROSA has become an expert in its field with more than two decades of dealing with various events. It works hard to overcome all hardships and possesses huge capabilities in delivering aid to the needy in disasters. These capabilities have become a role model to some international institutions and organizations. It has made a landmark presence in so many critical conditions with the testimony of a number of international organizations.
“It was one of the first organizations to reach disastrous regions such as tsunamis, earthquakes in Indonesia, Turkey, and Pakistan, as well as the droughts in Niger and Somalia.
“There are a number of inflicted and plagued regions where the organization was the first to reach. Such measurements and procedures of work made it a model to be emulated, since it managed to professionally work with bureaucratic regulations that impair relief works. For that reason and for proceeding its work smoothly, the organization reduced its routine procedures. Other organization realized that and did the same.”
With the commencement of your new tasks, you made a tour to a number of poor countries, starting from Djibouti. What is the purpose? And what did this tour accomplish? Do you plan to make similar tours in the coming period?
“The purpose of these visits, starting from Djibouti, was to get acquainted to the needs of these poor communities and have a close look at further essential needs, such as health, social, educational and developmental services through its offices and representatives.
“These visits resulted in so many benefits. Especially the inspection visit I made to the warehouses of the organization in Jeddah to be ready to move quickly in crisis was beneficial.”
Recently, you visited Lebanon. What was the purpose of your visit? And what are the results?
“My visit to Lebanon included many events. First, I attended the inauguration of a center for Syrian refugees by the Saudi ambassador in Lebanon in Bekaa region, which was built by IIROSA. Secondly, three cooperation protocols were signed between the organization and some governmental bodies, including the Islamic Education Association in Beirut and Bekaa, for the sponsorship of 3,000 Syrian refugee students. Another cooperation protocol was signed with Dar Al-Zahra hospital in northern Tripoli to provide psychological treatment and rehabilitation of refugees and facilitate the use of artificial limbs as well as operating plastic surgery for a number of casualties.
“A number of Lebanese ministers attended the ceremony. The ambassador pointed in his speech to the role of the organization in providing food, social and medical aids and relief, in accordance with the directions and appeals of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. He stressed as well on the importance of this humanitarian role in rescuing those in distress.
“I also pronounced a speech, saying that the organization, with the support of well-off Saudi citizens, was doing its utmost to extend help to those in need.
“The center in Marj town will also provide essential protection for refugees, as it will be their temporary residence as soon as they reach Lebanon.
“The organization’s efforts are very obvious and clear in rescuing the refugees from poverty, hunger, and illness. To achieve this goal, it established six medical projects and 13 additional projects to provide food, blankets, and winter clothes. In addition, it sponsored 5,700 students in different stages of their studies in neighboring countries Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.”
There are rumors saying that the presence of the organization in some countries is mere symbolic. What do you say about that?
“One must be very sure that the organization, with its humanitarian works that the world knows so well, distances itself from these rumors.
“Anyone familiar with its accomplishments, programs, and relief activities realizes it works according to defined controls and schedules to help those in distress.
“The organization’s reply to these gossips is showing its accomplishments in reality. Although it gets the confidence of donors, it makes sure its endowments are provided through formal and known channels, and with the coordination of the Kingdom’s embassies in different countries. It also builds bridges of understanding, communication and cooperation with local, regional and international organizations, such as the World Food Program, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, UNESCO, and UNICEF. IIROSA’s offices are around the world to manage the funds of benefactors that are spent to achieve the organization’s goals and objectives.
“I would like to mention that the work of the organization reached 149 states and more than 42 million people have benefited from it.
“No manipulation has occurred whatsoever. The report of outside review firm Ernst & Young, one of the largest and most famous external auditors worldwide that followed international accounting standards in its audit of the organization, confirms this. The report has gained applause and credit of the general assembly during its sixth annual meeting in Jeddah last week.”
Many observers have criticized the organization’s role, saying it wasn’t as it should be in extending humanitarian aids and relief to refugees in Syria and Myanmar. What is your answer to that?
“My answer that refutes this question is the result of my recent visit to Lebanon, on which I elaborated above.”
From your point of view, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the organization?
“IIROSA, thanks to God and to the support of the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques as well as the Saudi people, did not, and will not, stop providing help for all the needy people, everywhere and at any time.
“The organization spent SR 182,345,487to help the needy in the Kingdom. In addition, its presence is recognized and growing worldwide. It worked hard and made efforts to extend help and aid to citizens of this country. It is an integrated part from these wealthy springs that extend humanitarian aids.
“In the field of educational services, it gives support and operates some of the educational institutions. It sponsors teachers, provides scholarships and student subsidies, as well as books and curricula, and teaching aids, laboratories and language laboratories. The number of students sponsored by the organization is so far 11,426, while the number of teachers is 5,412. There are 2,070 educational institutions affiliated to it, with the number of students benefiting from these institutions totaling 2,215,600 students.
“In addition to the medical caravans, the vaccination of children and the fight against infectious diseases, the organization has established many projects specialized in health issues. It has also set up, operated and conducted food centers and sponsored health staffs.
“The number of affiliated health projects since its establishment until now is 285, which includes hospitals, medical centers, clinics, pharmacies, and other programs, such as fighting blindness and heart surgeries with the cooperation of international organizations. The number of beneficiaries of these projects amounts to 33,778,430 persons.
“The organization also conducted 2,139 eye surgeries in camps that were set up in Sri Lanka, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Indonesia, and conducted 12 surgical campaigns through which it made 182 heart surgeries, 224 catheterization procedures, and 783 diagnostic cases in Yemen.”
Recently, you signed a contract to build a commercial tower in Makkah. Can you give us more details on this? What are its purpose, cost, and when will it be finished?
“IIROSA and the Islamic World League signed a contract with a national company to build a new tower with a total cost of $ 47 million, as part of a series of towers it intends to construct in Makkah.
“It was signed at the headquarters of the organization’s secretariat, and attended by a number of officials, journalists and media.
“It also plans to build more of these towers because of their importance and necessity to bring proceeds for the implementation of programs and activities in various relief fields.
“The new tower will be built in Abrahem Al-Khalel Street in Makkah. All the proceeds will be allocated in full to finance the society’s development projects, such as Iftar, Eid clothing, and individual subsidies. The revenues of this tower will amount to SR 9 million annually. This will pave the way to the complete implementation of projects.
“The total area of the project is 2,034 square meters. It consists of 19 stories and 328 rooms. In addition, there are restrooms and other facilities such as ground reservoir and reception, a parking lot, a restaurant, and a mosque. There are fire alarm systems as well, radio and Internet, with a computer and network television for monitoring.
“It is expected that the completion of the project will be after 18 months from the date of signing the contract.”