In Dubai, where several Porsches, Hummers and perhaps a Ferrari can be spotted in the course of a short drive, it is difficult to imagine poverty – especially among the local Emirati population. The government provides its citizens with free housing, healthcare and education, and water and electricity are heavily subsidised.

Compared with the travails of migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates, Emirati poverty is nothing. But deprivation does exist and it stems from social problems. Most Emiratis who need help are widows, divorcees, orphans, disabled people, the ill and infirm, or the families of prisoners. Divorce in particular is soaring.

Most Emiratis seek help in the first instance from their extended families. But last year Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the UAE, doubled subsidies available via the ministry of social affairs.

“The government has moved very fast,” says Mohamed Bakkar bin Haidar, general manager of the Beit Al Khair Society, a charity that provides for UAE nationals. “We cannot say that we don’t have any poor in the UAE; that also would be unfair. But we can say that we have the least.”



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