Having returned to South Africa after a two week long humanitarian mission in the war stricken Gaza Strip, Gift of the Givers (GOTG) founder, Imtiaz Sooliman, has hailed the hard work and effort put in by his 10 man team. The group experienced several issues throughout their journey, including being denied entry to Gaza at the Rafah border, and suffering a delay in the arrival of their medical supplies.
Barr the issues encountered, Sooliman described their trip as an extremely successful one. Having been delayed in Cairo, the group resolved the issue by extending their stay in Gaza by two days, also putting in longer hours at the hospital where they were volunteering.
“With all the difficulties we had, like not getting our supplies, not having a big enough team, and being delayed, all that was compensated by the fact that the war had stopped. Had the war not stopped, I don’t think we would have seen that amount of patients,” he said.
Despite planning to cargo urgent medical supplies into the Strip, the group faced a lengthy delay waiting for permission to be granted by the Egyptian authorities. Sooliman noted that they received approval on Friday the 5th, two days before their scheduled return. Hence, the supplies were still sitting at an airport in Cairo, with plans to move it into Gaza within the coming week. However, he insisted they had already taken steps to ensure those supplies were properly distributed upon.
“Whilst we were there, we sat with the health ministry and the different hospitals, and we gave them a list of what must go to which NGO, what must go to which hospital, and who requires what equipment. We sorted all that out,” he said.
Having surveyed the current state of Gaza first hand, Sooliman said the most urgent need in the region was that of building material. He noted many civilians were still living inside their destroyed homes, something that would become particularly problematic during the chilly winter months.
Apart from a shortage of medical supplies and equipment, he also stressed the need for medical personnel that could help educate and assist the doctors in Gaza.
“They may have the medical personnel, but because they are cut off from the rest of the world, they don’t know the modern and faster techniques. However, each one of them has a thirst to learn,” he said.
With the war having taken its toll on the psychological health of many of Gaza’s youth, Sooliman stressed the urgent need for them to receive trauma counseling. With the GOTG continuing construction on a Child Care Centre in the region, he was hopeful they could help assist with meeting that need.
According to him, the centre would also serve as a kindergarten and day care centre for the children.
“This will be for everybody, with access to all the kids in the area. There will also be library facilities, which will also be open to everybody,” he said.
Despite all the adversity and hardship they had faced, Sooliman lauded the Gazan people for the positive attitude they continued to show.
“These people never stop smiling. You’d swear to god there wasn’t a war in Gaza if you saw their faces,” he said.
He made an impassioned appeal to South Africans to continue showing their public support for the Gazan people, also calling on them to contribute to aid organizations working in the region.VOC (Mubeen Banderker)