Gift of the Givers responds to Philippine disaster

The scale of destruction wrought by super-typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines will not be known any time soon, but South African non-governmental organisation (NGO) Gift of the Givers has begun plans to ship much-needed humanitarian supplies to the most affected areas. The NGO has made R2-million available immediately to buy essential supplies for victims in the most affected eastern part of the island chain.

Gift of the Givers is responding to a call from the Filipino government for international assistance in the aftermath of the catastrophic natural disaster. Early estimates put the death toll at 20 000, but that is expected to rise, and say that the typhoon has left more than 500 000 people homeless and without access to clean water and food.

gift-givers1The Filipino military has been evacuating citizens like this pregnant woman caught in the part of the destruction (Image: Government of the Philippines)Winds exceeding 320 km per hour and waves topping 7m made landfall on 8 November, wreaking destruction up to 3 km inland on the island archipelago. Tacloban, the provincial capital of Leyte, bore the brunt of ferocious winds where it is estimated that at least 10 000 people have been killed. It is small towns like Guiuan, where Haiyan first hit, destroying 80% of the village, which will receive assistance from Gift of the Givers.

With a second typhoon expected to strike the Philippines later this week the NGO is in a race to get emergency food and medical supplies to desperate communities cut off from the outside world. Initial supplies will be shipped from the organisation’s warehouses in South Africa and Dubai, or be purchased on the ground in the Philippines.

Included in the emergency food supplies is Sibusiso Ready Food, a protein-rich food supplement developed by the NGO. The high-energy soya and groundnut-based supplement was developed to provide energy-rich food to HIV and tuberculosis patients, and malnutrition sufferers. It has proven to be an effective remedy to food shortages in the aftermath of disasters such as Haiyan.

A CALL FOR HELP

As it has before, the organisation has asked South Africans to donate money or goods for the humanitarian effort. The NGO needs to collect non-perishable food items, blankets, disposable nappies, sanitary pads and medical supplies.

Once details of the devastation become clearer Gift of the Givers will dispatch search-and-rescue teams to the area to assist with clean-up and rescue operations. The organisation’s teams will include volunteer paramedics, primary health care personnel and medics with advanced life support skills. Teams such as these were among the first to respond to the destruction wrought by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and are operating in war-torn Syria.

AFRICA’S LARGEST AID AGENCY

gift-givers2Gift of the Givers was honoured earlier this year with a two-part postage stamp by the South African Post OfficeBeginning in 1992 with an aid mission to conflict-ridden Bosnia, Gift of the Givers has grown into the largest Africa-based and founded aid organisation in the world. It has provided assistance in Niger; after the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, during the floods in Limpopo and Mozambique in 2010 and 2013, and is the only aid agency operating in Somalia.

Labelled South African brand ambassadors, with a postage stamp celebrating its good works, the Gift of the Givers was founded by Dr Imtiaaz Sooliman after his Sufi spiritual advisor Muhammed Saffer-Effendi told him to start an NGO.

Sooliman gave up a lucrative private medical practice to set up a humanitarian organisation that has disbursed more than R1-billion and has operations in more than 40 countries across the globe.

Constantly networking or flying to asses needs in disaster areas Sooliman has said he has dispensed with the need to rest.

“I can’t look away; there is far too much hardship and difficulty in the world. Helping other people is a way of saying to God ‘thank you’ that my family is safe.”

First published on Media Club South Africa – Brand South Africa’s library of quality images and articles, available for free