Islamic Finance Halal Industry

UNHCR adds Rohingya refugees to Refugee Zakat Fund beneficiaries

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 27, 2019 – The Refugee Zakat Fund launched by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) just before Ramadan is now extending its support to cover displaced Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh, making beneficiaries in the South Asian country the first outside of the MENA region to receive Zakat assistance. This endeavor further amplifies UNHCR’s message that the Muslim world has the potential to take Islamic philanthropy to the next level through the targeted use of obligatory alms to help some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are fully eligible to receive Zakat, being a displaced Muslim community living in poor conditions, and in dire need of assistance, and considered as stranded travelers waiting to go back to their homeland.

“Since the Fund’s launch in April 2019, we’ve received US$ 1 million from Zakat donors around the world, and are anticipating a surge during the blessed last ten days of Ramadan.” said Houssam Chahine, UNHCR’s Head of Private Sector Partnerships in the MENA region. “We are proud to announce the extension of the Refugee Zakat Fund to the neediest refugee families in Bangladesh, who have risked their lives to reach safety, and are still in need for humanitarian support and long-term care to survive. Zakat assistance can help up to 120,000 households in need of basic amenities, including members of the local host community,” he added.

 Chahine emphasized that Zakat obligations can also be fulfilled all year round, helping individuals, institutions align their philanthropic Zakat with statutory finance requirements according to their own calendars, and said: “Ramadan is an important time for doing good and to remember the needy, and I encourage Muslims to remember refugees in their prayers, and remember them with their Zakat this Holy Month.”

Spending their second Ramadan in exile, Badar and his family were forced to flee their home in a village in Myanmar after it was attacked in a matter of minutes. The father of two recounts having to leave while leaving the stove on. “We had to flee so quick, we left the rice cooking on the stove. We couldn’t even take any of our important papers – I can’t predict what will happen to us now,” he added tearfully. Like thousands of Rohingya Muslims, he is unable to return home and is in dire need for vital support. “I’m only thinking of my children’s future, my life is almost over”, he continued. 

Zakat is the mandatory alms given by Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth each year, to 8 categories of people in need. According to the “UNHCR Zakat Program: 2019 Launch Report”, UNHCR has received US$ 14.4 million from 2016 to 2018, directly assisting 6,888 displaced families (34,440 individuals), primarily Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.


For more information about the Refugee Zakat Fund:

To download UNHCR’s first annual Zakat report “UNHCR Zakat Program: 2019 Launch Report”:

For more information on this topic, please contact:

Ola Anan

Public Information Associate

Mobile: +971 (50) 621 3660



Omer Elnaiem, Advocacy & Campaign Officer

Mobile: +971 (50) 8130 594



Shadi Ghrawi, Islamic Philanthropy Officer

Mobile: +971 (56) 665 3845


About Refugee Zakat Fund

The Refugee Zakat Fund –which has evolved from UNHCR’s Zakat programme earlier this year- is a global structure that allows individuals and institutions alike to fulfil their social responsibilities and Zakat obligations strategically and efficiently, governed by UNHCR and the Tabah Foundation, with 100% of Zakat contributions delivered to the most vulnerable refugees and internally displaced families.

The Fund is fully Sharia-compliant; backed by fatwas from leading Islamic scholars and institutions, and subject to strict governance, ensuring utmost transparency.