Zakat, the third pillar in Islam, is a mandatory charity that every Muslim who saved a minimum annual amount needs to donate. Each year, Muslims are required to donate 2.5% of this annual savings amount.

Zakat is meant for eight categories of eligible recipients mentioned in the Holy Quran: "Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them [Zakat], those whose hearts are to be reconciled, captives, debtors, in the cause of Allah, and wayfarers...". Today's refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) typically fall under at least four of these categories: the poor, the needy, the debtors, and the wayfarers.

  • Desire of donors to dedicate their Zakat to eligible refugees and IDPs
  • Zakat-eligibility of many refugees and IDPs as mentioned above
  • Around 50% of refugees and IDPs come from Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries
  • UNHCR’s receipt of several fatwas authorizing it to receive and distribute Zakat following certain conditions

The Refugee Zakat Fund is a trusted, compliant, and effective mechanism harnessing the power of Zakat (and Sadaqah) to assist eligible refugees and IDPs. It aims to enable UNHCR to help vulnerable refugee and internally displaced families in need, including widows and their children (female-headed households) who have no other sources of income or support.

UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund has received 17 fatwas and endorsements from major Islamic scholars and institutions, endorsing UNHCR as a legitimate recipient of Zakat contributions. These include International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA) and Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy. These fatwas form the governance foundations for the Fund. You can read all the fatwas here.

Governance of the Refugee Zakat Fund has three pillars: financial governance, Zakat compliance, and assessment and monitoring. You can read more about these pillars here.

In 2023, UNHCR distributed Zakat contributions to refugees and internally displaced people in 18 countries in Asia, MENA and Africa. You can find more information in our public reports available here.

Based on the fatwas received, UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund follows a 100% Zakat distribution policy. UNHCR distributes Zakat contributions from Refugee Zakat Fund as cash assistance or distribution of goods, which guarantee the transfer of ownership of that assistance to the beneficiaries. These programmes include the distribution of school equipment, shelter materials, and items that allow beneficiaries to start a small business. Cash assistance does remain one of the most effective ways to help refugee or displaced families secure their basic needs and live in dignity.

Most fatwas received by UNHCR to endorse the Refugee Zakat Fund, recommend that UNHCR doesn’t deduct fees or wages from Zakat contributions. As UNHCR is committed to complying with the fatwa recommendations, we have been subsidizing, from our non-Zakat budget, Zakat distribution Indirect Support Costs (ISCs), which is a standard 6.5% across all donations that UNHCR receives globally, as well as online donation fees.

This is a standard 6.5% that we apply to any contribution we receive globally, to help us cover overhead costs related to coordination and implementation of our humanitarian programmes. For Zakat donations, we follow a 100% distribution policy, meaning no percentage is deducted, ensuring that 100% of the contributions go directly to refugees and Zakat-compliant beneficiaries.

Thanks to your trust and the trust of thousands of Zakat donors globally, the number of Zakat contributions made through the Refugee Zakat Fund has grown and its impact on refugees and IDPs has spread across several countries in MENA, Asia, and Africa. UNHCR now needs support in covering the costs of distributing these contributions. That is why we are proposing to Zakat donors to kindly consider topping up their Zakat contributions with a 6.5% Sadaqah donation. This will help us continue our 100% Zakat distribution policy and comply with the fatwas.

UNHCR has received 17  fatwas that govern the way it must manage and distribute Zakat contributions, and one of the key recommendations is not to deduct any fees or wages, as UNHCR is not considered as an 'amil (administrator) of Zakat'.

Since 2017, UNHCR used Sadaqah donations made through the Refugee Zakat Fund to implement programmes for the benefit of eligible displaced families in 22 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Chad, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uganda, Yemen.

In 2023, Sadaqah contributions aided more than 826 thousand beneficiaries in 16 countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Greece, Ethiopia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Uganda. You can find more information in our public reports available here.

The cash assistance program is one of the most important humanitarian programmes that UNHCR implements, through an expansive cash distribution network in many countries in MENA, Africa, and Asia. Technology such as ATMs, iris scans, and mobile wallets is used to deliver cash contributions including Zakat to the most eligible refugees and IDPs.

Through annual post-cash distribution monitoring exercises, UNHCR has found that recipients consistently spend cash on essentials. Refugees and IDPs primarily spend cash assistance to cover rent, food, healthcare, and debt repayment, among other essentials. The cash assistance program has saved the most eligible families from eviction, helped cover medical costs, reduced child labour and other exploitative work conditions, and ensured many families can send their children to school and repay some of the debts that weigh heavily on their shoulders. The most vulnerable families continue to receive support from the cash programme until UNHCR helps them become self-reliant or finds other durable solutions for them.

The destination of Zakat contributions is dictated by the donor. In every relevant destination country, UNHCR follows a comprehensive vulnerability assessment framework to identify eligible beneficiaries among refugees and IDPs. If a donor leaves it to UNHCR to decide where to spend Zakat, then a specific operation is chosen based on needs, absorption capacity and other criteria.

The Refugee Zakat Fund focuses on digital contributions for ease, speed, and transparency However, you can also transfer your Zakat to a dedicated interest-free bank account in Geneva:

  • Beneficiary: UNHCR Voluntary Funds
  • Clearing Number: 240
  • BIC/Swift Code: UBSWCHZH80A
  • Beneficiary Bank: UBS AG, P.O. Box 2770, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
  • USD IBAN: CH48 0024 0240 FP10 0399 1
  • EUR IBAN: CH91 0024 0240 FP10 0399 3
  • GBP IBAN: CH80 0024 0240 FP10 0399 7
In the transfer description field, please use “Zakat MENA” followed by the destination country of your Zakat (Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Nigeria, India or Somalia) You can transfer your Sadaqah to:
  • Beneficiary: UNHCR Voluntary Funds
  • Beneficiary Bank: UBS AG
  • Beneficiary Bank Address: Case Postale 2770, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
  • Clearing number: 240
  • BIC/Swift Code: UBSWCHZH80A
  • Account #: D710 0000 5
  • IBAN: CH79 0024 0240 D710 0000 5
  • Currency: USD
  • Reference or description: MENA for refugees

Yes, UNHCR issues reports twice each year (one mid-year and one annual) on the impact of Zakat and Sadaqah contributions made through the Refugee Zakat Fund, as well as how and where they are distributed and the number of beneficiaries. You can read the latest report here, and all previous reports here.

UNHCR does receive funding from governments; however, due to the unprecedented increase in the number of refugees and IDPs globally, accompanied by the increase in their humanitarian needs, this funding doesn’t cover our important work in the humanitarian response to displacement crises. We are addressing that shortfall through innovative programs such as the Refugee Zakat Fund, which allow UNHCR to meet some of the urgent humanitarian needs of refugees and IDPs.

In your Zakat app, You can see your donations' history you made using the same email you used in your login credentials. If you have other donations registered under a different email address, please contact us at care@unhcr.org