Relief aid groups join forces to help in Somalia

2011-09-08 00:00

LILONGWE — An earthquake is in some ways a more merciful disaster than famine, because quakes extinguish life suddenly. With starvation, parents are forced to watch their children die slowly without being able to do anything about it.

That’s according to Dr Imtiaz Sooliman of Gift of the Givers, the relief aid organisation based in Pietermaritzburg, that has embarked on his second mission to Somalia.

It is the first time the organisation has joined hands with a Catholic NGO from Scotland to alleviate the plight of hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia.

Mary’s Meals has since 2002 provided meals to children at 302 schools in Malawi every day to improve their concentration.

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow of Mary’s Meals heard about Gift of the Givers after the organisation’s first mercy mission to Somalia three weeks ago.

“We wanted to do something for Somalia because our organisation already had some involvement in the Somali refugee camps in northern Kenya, but we did not know how to access Mogadishu,” he said.

MacFarlane-Barrow called Sooliman and because of their similar views, the two immediately “clicked”.

The result was that Mary’s Meals donated about R2,1 million to Gift of the Givers to buy emergency supplies. Their donations come mainly from Scotland.

MacFarlane-Barrow this week traveled to Lilongwe, the Malawi capital, so that he could go with Sooliman to Mogadishu.

“I cannot ask people for donations when I have not seen the situation in Somalia first hand. Now I can go and see and tell the world about it,” he said.

About 35 tons of emergency supplies, including medicine and food, went to Somalia this week as part of Gift of the Givers’ mission to Mogadishu. Nearly 30 doctors, specialists, theatre sisters and nutritionists will work at the Bagadir Hospital ,which is already bursting at the seams because 700 patients are attended by just a handful of doctors.

Sooliman said the hospital staff and Gift of the Givers co-ordinator Dr Abdul Hashi will arrange that the doctors can begin work immediately.

All the necessary theatre equipment and oxygen have been flown in to ensure that the specialists can operate when necessary.

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