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Aid volunteers battle on despite injuries

12 September 2010 - 02:00 By SANTHAM PILLAY

Ill pregnant mothers and starving children have become common sights for volunteers in disaster-hit Pakistan.

Floods ravaged the country nearly two months ago, leaving thousands destitute.

Volunteers say there is considerable work still to be done - and not even broken bones will stop them.

On Wednesday, a car carrying four Pakistani aid workers affiliated to the South African disaster relief organisation Gift of the Givers, capsized twice in Karachi.

Hamza Rheman, his brother, Shabir, sister-in-law, Neelum, and their driver were involved in the accident.

Rheman, 27, who fractured his right hand, said injuries would not hinder their aid efforts. "This is just a hand. There are people out there with no food and shelter," he said.

Neelum injured her ribs and the driver fractured his leg.

Even though they have no medical experience, Rheman and his family joined the Gift of the Givers a month ago when they were approached by its founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman.

"Here in Pakistan, people don't trust each other, So when Sooliman, who is my mother's cousin, put so much trust in us and left thousands of bags of food and supplies in our care, it meant we had to help."

He said it was a difficult to face each day knowing what they would encounter.

"People are hungry. When they see food, they just jump. I have loved helping people for a long time, but we also start crying sometimes. There are children without clothes, and people have no food. If they do, we don't know how old it is. There is no medication available, and the government isn't doing anything."

The volunteers have so far managed to assist seven areas. One of the worst hit was the Badin district, known for its swamp-like terrain.

"Normally, when you arrive at these sites, there are at least shelters for people, but here we couldn't see anything.

"The people need everything, everything. We are giving them clothes and food, milk and even pots and sweets for the children."

Sooliman, who went to Pakistan soon after the disastrous floods struck, paid tribute to the volunteers who have continued serving their countrymen with distinction.

He will be returning to Pakistan next week to enlist more aid.