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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Qatar’s $100m gift to Hurricane Katrina victims, 10 years on

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All photos courtesy of Qatar Katrina Fund

Marking the 10th anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina in the US, singer Marlon Jackson, civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson and the mayor of New Orleans will take part in commemorations organized by Qatar this week.

On Aug. 29, 2005 the Gulf coast of the US was destroyed by Katrina, in what became the most costly natural disaster in the country’s history, killing at least 1,800 people and destroying half-a-million homes.

Within two weeks of the force five storm, Qatar pledged to donate $100 million to help with the massive recovery effort in the affected areas.

New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina
New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina

Some 18 projects related to rebuilding housing, providing much-needed health care and support with education in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama were given grants, scholarships and resources through the Qatar Katrina Fund.

The Gulf country’s then-Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani visited New Orleans in spring 2008 to see how the city and surrounding districts were being rebuilt, The New York Times reported at the time.

Now, to mark the 10th anniversary of the disaster, Qatar’s ambassador in Washington DC, Mohammed Al Kuwari, will meet some of those who benefited from the funding during a four-day visit to New Orleans, starting today (Wednesday).

Marlon Jackson of the Jackson 5 will be among the famous names due to attend a lunch hosted by the ambassador and organized with charity Habitat for Humanity tomorrow (Aug. 27) to “pay homage” to those involved in rebuilding the region, Al Kuwari said on Twitter.

 

During the visit, Al Kuwari is also expected to meet with civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu, as well as seeing how the neighborhoods which were destroyed by Katrina have been rebuilt.

Building houses

Of the $100 million fund, $38.4 million was given to education, $34.1 million to housing and $27.5 million dedicated to healthcare.

Here’s a breakdown of the largest recipients of the donations:

Building new homes
Building new homes

Non-profit organization Habitat for Humanity, which was heavily involved in helping repair and build from scratch thousands of houses in the region, received $22 million from the Qatar Katrina Fund – the largest single grant given through the fund.

The donation paid for a third of the charity’s total costs in the area and built 338 new homes for families misplaced by the disaster in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

After her own New Orleans house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, Pat Hebard worked with Habitat volunteers to help build her new home in Lafayette Parish.

“It feels wonderful to own a house, but it’s even more wonderful because I helped build the house. It’s a different kind of feeling,” she said.

The New Orleans district of Treme/Lafitte is the oldest African-American neighborhood in the US and more than half of its historic buildings were seriously damaged during the storm.

Etta May Williams outside her new home in New Orleans' Treme district
Etta May Williams outside her new home in New Orleans’ Treme district

A $2.5 million grant from the QKF helped to renovate more than 100 buildings, enabling residents to return to their homes.

Stacy Horn Koch, organizer of the Tremé/Lafitte Renewal Project, said: “Hurricanes are equal opportunity destroyers, but it’s not equal when you have to rebuild. These (residents of the district) are people working for minimum wage, coming back to homes that are destroyed, they haven’t been paid for a month or more – how are they going to rebuild?

“I wish more people were like the Emir (of Qatar), in leadership, that there were more acts of goodness. Then maybe we wouldn’t have so much horrible stuff going on, less worry about what people believe and more emphasis on just being good.”

Scholarships

Damage from the hurricane forced many universities in the affected areas to temporarily close, and with many thousands of people out of work and homeless, students were faced with potentially dropping out of higher education.

The fund provided more than 2,000 student scholarships to those most in need at Tulane, Loyola, Xavier and Louisiana state universities.

The largest single employer in New Orleans, Tulane University received a $10 million grant to pay for the education of 180 students under the Qatar Tulane Scholars Fund.

Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion in Xavier University
Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion in Xavier University

For Chad Cramer, the scholarship paid for a five-year masters of architecture degree and has enabled him to now work as an urban designer for the City of New Orleans.

Xavier University in Louisiana was forced to close for the fall semester of 2005, however when it reopened many of its students were financially struggling.

It got a $5 million scholarship fund, which was distributed to 500 students, while a further donation of $12.5 million built a new pharmacy building, the Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion, to help address Louisiana’s shortage of trained doctors and pharmacists.

Healthcare

The Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Mississippi was one of a number of health-related organizations in the region that was helped by the Qatar Fund.

Memorial Hospital, Gulfport, Mississippi
Memorial Hospital, Gulfport, Mississippi

In the aftermath of the hurricane, the number of uninsured patients needing medical treatment soared and the cost of caring for these patients was estimated at $28.8 million per year.

A $10.8 million donation established the Qatar Hope Fund at the hospital, which has helped provide medical care to thousands of low-income patients without insurance who would not otherwise have been able to afford treatment.

The hospital has been renovated since Katrina and has recently opened the first neonatal clinic in southern Mississippi.

Funding also enabled community and mobile health centers to be set up in areas with no local healthcare provision. A $3 million grant allowed March of Dimes to buy three new mum-and-baby mobile health units, which provide prenatal and early pediatric care for mothers and babies affected by Katrina.

Book and film

This week also marks the official launch of the book, Qatar Katrina Fund: 10 years after the storm, and a short film Qatar Katrina Fund: After the storm, both of which feature short interviews heads of charities, hospitals, organizations and everyday people who were recipients of the funding.

The book and the film are both available on the fund’s website. A spokesperson for the Washington DC-based Qatari mission described the book as “a story of Qatar’s gift and its role in the renewal of a legendary American city and its surrounding community.”

Speaking on the film about the projects funded through Qatar’s donation, Al Kuwari said:

“We were happy to see afterwards that we brought joy and happiness to the people and at the same time, we have friends now in the US who are very close to us. We are proud to see our project as benefiting a lot of people.”

Thoughts?

36 COMMENTS

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Peter Draper
6 years ago

I just hope that this story gets equal press coverage in the USA and the UK alongside the slams…. This country does a lot of humanitarian work that never gets publicized.

sadam
sadam
6 years ago
Reply to  Peter Draper

Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.

Frank A. Clark

it’s better to keep it that way, otherwise it’s called a publicity stunt, corporate social responsibility, PR , whatever

Katie
6 years ago
Reply to  sadam

I get that, but Qatar gets so much bad publicity that in the interest of fairness, this should also be made known to the public. It’s bad journalism to only ever tell one side of the story.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  sadam

There was no publicity about this at the time or really until 10 yrs later which kind of defeats the purpose of a publicity stunt.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Misha

Actually there was……

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I was living in Texas at the time, we probably had the most evacuees arrive than any other state. I can tell you there was nothing in the news (at least widely reported to count as publicity) about Qatar’s donation. Most of the media were too busy focusing on the mistakes of FEMA.

Lisa Clayton
Lisa Clayton
6 years ago
Reply to  sadam

The Emir quietly made a trip there at the time and called upon some of the families whose homes he built with very little fanfare. I only knew cause someone at the Embassy told me.

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago
Reply to  Peter Draper

Just wondering if only half the amount was spent on the Industrial area then the Industrial area at Salwa would have been a safe, secure and beautiful place. I suppose the USA has more then enough to take care of itself

Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed

This gift gives me pride, in my country, the man, and his family.

Lisa Clayton
Lisa Clayton
6 years ago

This was a great thing the Qataris did and really helped a lot of people that our own government did not. I am grateful for Qataris contribution.

Moiwee
Moiwee
6 years ago

MIMH, thoughts?

KK
KK
6 years ago

Fine, should we feel happy now? It would be nice if Qatar would also accepts refugees and responsibility; not just try to be ‘nice’ by opening its wallet.

Lisa Clayton
Lisa Clayton
6 years ago
Reply to  KK

A lot of countries don’t throw their doors open to accept refuges. I do think it would be nice if Qatar first granted citizenship to those Palestinians, Sudanese, Arabs and Asians who have lived there for generations (or at least 20+ years), but I understand why they don’t throw the gates wide open for immigration. More and more countries are also closing off a lot of avenues for immigrants because it is such a massive problem and every country has some constraints (geographical, financial, cultural, etc.)

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

I find it strange that Qatar would give so much money to the richest country on earth. Such disasters happen in places like Bangladesh all the time, but they would be lucky to receive a fraction of this amount.

It’s nice to see their generosity but you can’t help thinking what are they trying to buy…..

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

What is so strange? It’s actually perfectly normal in this world.
There are two factors that influence these kinds of things.

1) A country is more likely to give to their “friends”, allies or country that will benefit them. You see this also with the US providing so much foreign aid to Israel though there are other more needy countries. We as individuals are the same way, we are more likely to help a friend whose house burned down then someone in a village on the otherside of the world.

2)The second is media of course, the more we hear about a story and have strangers personalized to us the more we are likely to help. Katrina was all over the news for awhile. Haiti as well received a lot of press coverage and 9 billion in donations (who know where the money went!). Unfortunately Bangladesh doesn’t and most people forgot about Nepal as well after the initial shock.

I wish it wasn’t the case, but it is quite normal behavior. The people that need help the most aren’t necessarily the ones to receive it.

Katie
6 years ago
Reply to  Misha

I believe Qatar flew about 200 tonnes of aid to Nepal after the earthquake?

Katie

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Something like that, I don’t know the exact numbers. Qatar does give a lot and is quite charitable to countries. I’m just explaining why I don’t think it is strange as MIMH says it is. I do wish some of that 100 million was given to developinging countries instead but that’s a personal preference and the government is free to give as it sees fit just like I get to choose where my personal donations go.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Misha

That is very true, Qatar can choose to give its money to who it pleases and it’s none of my business.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

You are certainly entitled to your opinion and can express it, that wasn’t my point.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Misha

I’d also add that you can probably do more In Bangladesh/Nepal with 10 millions than in the US with 100 millions.

Humanity
Humanity
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

They also gave Cuba aids in their hurricanes. Your argument is invalid.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Humanity

As if Cuba didn’t have enough problems….

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Wait, I thought Qatar was the “richest country on earth”! At least that’s what some expats keep saying 😉

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Per capita yes, not per total output, that is still the U.S….. But apparently they still need your money….. (Psst wanna buy some U.S. Made fighters? What about some missile systems?)

Lisa Clayton
Lisa Clayton
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Seriously, MIMH? We may be a rich country but we clearly were not meeting all the needs from those harmed by Katrina. Do you think the same thing anytime the US helps another country? Are we also just trying to buy something? And if we are, does that really matter to the people helped by foreign aid?

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Clayton

Yeah your right, New Orleans is full of black Americans. They are lucky the rescuers when they turned up didn’t shoot them.

Lisa Clayton
Lisa Clayton
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Another OTT statement 🙂

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Clayton

There you go

Lisa Clayton
Lisa Clayton
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I wasn’t questioning whether people in NOLA have been subjected to racism. I was referring to the comment about being lucky they weren’t shot by those attempting to help them.

Trish Roth
Trish Roth
6 years ago

In 2010, journalism students from Northwestern University in Qatar, along with faculty advisors, spent several weeks in New Orleans writing about the Qatar Katrina Fund. They interviewed people, shot and edited film and produced a handful of fascinating short video stories about how the money had been used to make a difference. It is interesting to note that Qatar, a Muslim country, gave so much to Catholic universities. Their example of non-religious discrimination is admirable.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

It is great that Brad Pitt did a lot for his hometown, it doesn’t seem like any other celebrity did.

Vishal
Vishal
6 years ago

Not to forget the 0.05 million gift to Nepal also 🙂

Mr Burns
Mr Burns
6 years ago

Just a drop in a bucket compared to the billions of dollars the American tax payer dishes out to keep Al Udeid going.

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
6 years ago

Well done to Qatar. A truly admirable act. Whatever the reasons for doing it – I’m sure the locals appreciate any help they can get to rebuild their lives.

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