A 10-member strong Gift of the Givers (GOTG) medical team has vowed to amplify their efforts in assisting the people of Gaza, after suffering a lengthy delay whilst trying to enter through the Egyptian border. The group departed South Africa for the conflict hit strip on Tuesday, but only entered the area on Saturday morning after being barred entry by Egyptian authorities.
GOTG founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, said the sight of war was visible almost immediately upon entering through the Rafah border, with numerous buildings completed destroyed. Despite this however, he praised the reception from the Palestinian people towards their arrival as “absolutely phenomenal”.
“The deputy minister of religious affairs was there, the head of the border post was there, and just the warmth and love with which we were received was amazing,” he said.
In Gaza City itself, Sooliman said the sight of destruction was virtually everywhere. What was most alarming however, were the amount of mosques and civilian structures that had clearly been targeted by airstrikes.
“Inside Gaza City the last building they bombed was a 13-story apartment building, which had 50 families and 150 children inside there. The whole thing just collapsed, and there is no sense why someone would bomb a building like that,” he explained.
The GOTG medical team has based themselves at the Nasser Hospital in Gaza, and with most volunteers opting for the more prominent Al-Shifa Hospital. Sooliman noted they were eager to work at a hospital that was not frequented by other relief teams.
“We went to Nasser Hospital and they were very receptive. We have spent quite some time with director of the hospital and the different doctors, because that is the most important part. To build trust so people know they can work with you, and they don’t feel threatened by you or that you are going to override them,” he said.
He noted that within the first day at the hospital, the team had already seen to more than 145 patients, with several theatre cases having also been conducted.
Sooliman said they were facing an overwhelming number of war trauma cases, as well as corrections of procedures that were either done incorrectly, or needed further attention.
“It is too difficult to see so many patients in such a short space of time. At one time they had over 300 patients coming into the hospital within 30 minutes,” he noted.
The relief agency’s own medical supplies have yet to reach Gaza, and Sooliman said they were praying that those supplies came as soon as possible, particularly since the team had planned an outreach programme for Friday.
“We will send teams in the open ground and we will call the patients to come, and we are expecting hundreds of them to turn up,” he noted.
“If our plane comes in time, we’ve got every category of medicine and we will use it to deal with that kind of situation.” VOC (Mubeen Banderker)