SA volunteers head to battered Gaza

Johannesburg - About 40 doctors and medical professionals from South Africa are heading to Gaza to help in the relief efforts early next week.

Seven search-and-rescue specialists will also be flown over to help find people possibly alive and recover bodies in the rubble as will medical equipment, including an ambulance.

A Palestinian boy looks on as he stands at a United Nations-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive in the northern Gaza Strip. Picture: Mohammed Salem. Credit: Reuters

The doctors, organised by the Gift of the Givers, volunteered their services within hours of the call for help being made.

“We are taking search-and-rescue-staff to help give families closure by recovering bodies. We are hoping to find people still alive.

“The South African spirit of ubuntu is incredible. It didn’t even take three hours and we had confirmed volunteers responding to our request for an emergency medical mission to Gaza,” said Imtiaz Sooliman, founder and chairman of the charity.

He said trauma surgeons, anaesthetists, emergency specialists, theatre nurses, paramedics and a range of specialists had responded enthusiastically to the call.

“The danger, the risk to life and limb was not an issue,” Sooliman said.

The death toll among civilians, many of them women and children, the injuries, the trauma and the destruction through waves of Israeli attacks with sophisticated weapons has resulted in a groundswell of support for Gaza victims, both morally and financially, he said.

The Gift of the Givers’ specialised medical equipment, medicines and general medical supplies are ready to leave the country.

Gift of the Givers delivered aid inside Gaza within 12 hours of the bombing commencing on July 9.

These were medical supplies purchased inside Gaza. On July 9, food items were distributed among needy families.

But supplies are not readily available in Gaza and have to be brought in from outside the Palestinian territories.

The closure of the Rafah border presents a major obstacle for efficient and targeted aid delivery.

Oxygen, anaesthetic vaporisers, medical equipment, together with medical teams and food are a priority for now.

“The Egyptian ambassador, Sherif Naguip, has granted us an open invitation to discuss our needs. Our priority is the safe passage from Cairo to Rafah and the opening of the border to let the essentials through,” said Sooliman.