The Gift of the Givers (GOTG) were amongst a myriad of relief organizations that conducted presentations at the 19th World Congress on Disaster and Emergency Medicine, which took place in Cape Town this past week. The theme of the event focused on “Creating Capacity, Building Resilience,” intended to build on relief response to war and disaster-hit countries.
The conference is held on a two year basis and this year marks the first time since its inception that it has been held on African soil. Whilst the local attendance was not as strong as organizers would have hoped, there was still a strong and diverse international contingent, including organizations from across Europe, the U.S, Indonesia, India, and the Middle East amongst others.
One of the few local relief groups to have presented was GOTG, whose presentation had a strong focus on the NGO’s evolution through the years. Speaking to VOC’s Drivetime on Thursday, founder Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman said they had largely opted to address GOTG’s growth and its varied operations across Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world. This included a wide range of operations, from several medical missions, aid distributions, and the establishment of the world’s first containerized hospital, situated in Bosnia.
“We wanted to showcase Africa. Everyone has this mentality that Africa is slow and backward, and (questions) what it can contribute to the world. This was a golden opportunity to show what South Africa and Africa as a whole can do,” he explained.
Their presentation was extremely well received with many approaching the GOTG stand afterwards.
“They were absolutely blown away,” he related.
Amongst the NGO’s key focuses in recent weeks has been the escalating situation in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has launched a major assault to quell an attempted Houthi rebel takeover of the gulf state. Continued airstrikes has left the country in tatters, with over 120 000 people displaced within the country.
Despite the volatile situation, many teams from the organization’s Yemeni branch are still conducting aid distribution to those most affected by the conflict.
“We told them that it is very dangerous, but they said that people are hungry and so they have to do this. I thought they were crazy, but they are still doing it in any case,” explained Sooliman.
GOTG are also attempting to assist South African nationals who may still be trapped in the country. Sooliman noted that they were so far aware of seven such cases, two of whom currently held captive by the Houthi movement and were actively trying to trace and extract them from the country.
“We are trying our best to see how we can make contact with these people, so that we can try to help them. We’ve got some ideas what to do, but we’ve first got to find them,” he said.
Although unable to assure the successful return of all SA nationals, he urged those with families members stuck in Yemen to approach the organization as soon as possible.
Those seeking assistance in this regard, or who would simply like to donate to the GOTG’s operations may call the toll free number at 0800 786 911. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)