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A Fatal Bronx Fire

Communities, led by West African families, mount responses and mourn

A fire unseen for over 30 years

It had been over three decades since a Bronx nightclub was set on fire claiming the lives of 87 people. The culprit spent his last days of a life sentence in 2016 behind bars. Early this January, countless families experience the horror of losing loved ones as a fire consumed the Twin Parks NW apartment building in the Bronx. Built as low-income housing in 1974, the building was home to ranging ethnicities. It most prominently featured West Africans who championed a tight-knit community.

A Sunday morning of horror

All residents of the complex were awakened Sunday, January 9, to billowing smoke, blazing fire, and overwhelming panic. The fire chief, Daniel A. Nigro, described the scene saying, “Smoke spread throughout the building, thus the tremendous loss of life and other people fighting for their lives.” A total of 19 people died from the raging fire, including nine children.

“Smoke spread throughout the building, thus the tremendous loss of life and other people fighting for their lives.”

Another 44 were injured, 13 of them critically. Mostly all were from the Gambia. The fire started from a small heater being used to supplement the struggling heating system throughout the building. With no access to fire escapes the stage was set for a heartbreaking outcome.

Photo Credit NY Times

A call to action

Several community organizations and leaders quickly rallied aid for survivors as dozens of families, teary-eyed walked through hospitals and neighborhoods reckoning with their grief. National figures and celebrities sent condolences and material support for burial funds and recovery. Islamic Relief USA was among many faith-based partners to respond to the sobering devastation.

In order to assist families, many of whom were already stressed with financial difficulties, IRUSA donors provided cash assistance to help families purchase essentials, including food, medicine, clothes, and more. Please keep these families in your prayers. The families served will be using the support to supplement things food budgets, medicine, and purchasing new clothing after fleeing the apartment building with nothing but what little they could carry. Donors are still being encouraged to continue sending support and keeping the survivors in their prayers.

In Syria, a woman gives thanks to God as she receives a food parcel through the
Islamic Relief Ramadan programme, which last year reached 934,000 individuals
in 31 countries.
21. Responding to disasters – Islamic Relief has decades of experience
responding to natural and man-made disasters ranging from earthquakes, floods
and tsunamis to conflict. Each year, we rapidly respond to emergency situations,
striving to meet the immediate needs of those affected, while working to develop
a long-term response.
22. First to deliver aid to Grozny – When war broke out in Chechnya in 1995,
Islamic Relief was the first relief agency to deliver aid to the area’s capital,
Grozny. We supplied food, blankets, clothes, and medicine to those affected by
the fighting.
23. Hundreds of thousands helped after floods in Pakistan – The worst
floods in living memory struck Pakistan in 2010, prompting Islamic Relief to
launch a major relief and reconstruction operation. Our work benefitted some
428,000 people in more than 580 villages.
24. Recognised by the European Commission – In 2002, Islamic Relief
signed a Framework Partnership with the European Commission’s Humanitarian
Aid department. The move recognised our capacity to deliver aid to a high
25. Thousands raised during Bosnia appeal – Working with the UK-based
newspaper The Independent, Islamic Relief raised £37,000 in 1993 to support aid
efforts throughout the war in Bosnia, including during the Siege of Sarajevo.
26. Striving to ‘Do No Harm’ – Islamic Relief is committed to the principle of
‘Do No Harm’. We strive to ensure our programmes are appropriate for the
communities we serve, and to understand and minimise any potential negative
impacts of our work.
27. More than 20 years of waqf projects – In 2000, we began implementing
waqf projects, reviving the great Islamic tradition of sustainable charitable
investments alongside charitable giving. The project helps to provide funds to

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eed families during Ramadan, improve water and sanitation, and support health
and nutrition, among other endeavours.
28. On the ground in conflict zones – Islamic Relief works to support those
affected by conflict around the world. We respond to emergencies and carry out
long-term projects to help communities rebuild their lives. In 2003 we were one
of the few international aid agencies assisting people in Iraq when war broke out,
providing £9 million worth of aid.
29. Providing assistance based on need – We support those in need
regardless of their religion, race or sexual orientation, and do not discriminate in
any way. Islamic Relief works to ensure that those we help know our assistance
is unconditional, and that we welcome feedback and complaints.
30. Member of the UK’s Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) – Islamic
Relief was the first Muslim charity to join the DEC, an umbrella organisation
which brings together 15 leading UK-based aid charities in times of crisis to raise
funds. We joined in 2005, the same year we launched our biggest-ever operation
in the United States, supporting those affected by Hurricane Katrina. We’re part
of the DEC’s current appeal to alleviate hunger in Afghanistan.
Islamic Relief’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic included providing lifesaving
medical equipment and supplies to overwhelmed healthcare facilities in Nepal.
31. Continuing our work in Afghanistan – Islamic Relief has worked in
Afghanistan for more than 18 years. We provide a lifeline in the country, which is
gripped by humanitarian crisis triggered by drought, conflict, Covid-19 and
political change. We are on the ground and delivering aid in 5 provinces, serving
vulnerable populations including women and girls, the older people and people
living with disabilities.
32. Adapting to a global pandemic – Islamic Relief has adapted projects and
programmes to the new reality of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, we ran 122
Covid-19 prevention and support projects, reaching 1.5 million people. We also
launched an ongoing Coronavirus Appeal, to help provide health and hygiene
support to vulnerable people around the world.
33. Part of historic interfaith collaboration – In 2014, Islamic Relief began a
partnership with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in the first collaboration of

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vits kind between global Islamic and Christian humanitarian organisations. In 2022
we are marking World Refugee Day with a joint conference with LWF on
‘Welcoming the Stranger’.
34. Advocating for an end to FGM/C – Female genital mutilation and cutting
(FGM/C) is practised in many areas of the world and affects the physical and
mental health of millions of women and girls. Islamic Relief’s work includes
engaging with local scholars to educate communities to help bring an end to the
35. Committed to localising aid – As well as assisting those in need directly,
Islamic Relief is committed to localising aid by helping local partner organisations
build their capacity. They could be first responders with a deep understanding of
community needs, or a smaller non-governmental organisation working on one
particular challenge in a country or region.
36. Working to end early and forced marriage – Our faith perspective gives
Islamic Relief a special role in working to end early and forced marriage, which
affects millions of girls each year. We believe early and forced marriage violates
God-given human rights as well as the sanctity of marriage and family in Islam.
We are committed to working with faith leaders to change harmful cultural
37. Ensuring those with disabilities are not left behind – Islamic Relief
recognises that people living with disabilities are often at a greater risk in times
of disaster, conflict, or great need. We are working to ensure our projects and
programmes are accessible to everyone that needs our help by embedding
accessibility into the planning and design stages, and creating clear guidelines
developed with people living with disabilities.
38. There’s so much more to do– Over the last 38 years, the generosity of our
donors has made it possible for Islamic Relief to help millions of people around
the world. Sadly, humanitarian crises continue to grow in number and severity,
leaving more people in need of assistance.
Please help Islamic Relief continue our vital work. Donate today

Tariq is part of the Communications & External Relations team at Islamic Relief USA.

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