SA relief mission to island calls for help

A SOUTH African NGO is preparing a large scale humanitarian effort to assist the people of Haiti after the island nation was struck by a magnitude - 7 earthquake on Tuesday.

Gift of the Givers founder and chairperson Imtiaz Sooliman said the foundation needed financial assistance to buy food, water and medical supplies.

"We already have 100 tons of supplies on standby but we need so much more to carry off this mission," Sooliman said.

"Money is our biggest concern right now."

Sooliman also called on the country's health professionals to avail themselves for the mission.

"We need medical personnel to help us. We are asking for surgeons and paramedics to assist people we will encounter."

Sooliman assured South Africans that the humanitarian response would be handled "properly and thoroughly".

Two search-and-rescue teams will accompany the mission to Haiti and anyone looking to help has been asked to bring along tents to be used as places to stay in or to treat casualties.

The biggest challenge facing the foundation is the cargo plane that will carry the supplies to Haiti.

The plane will be brought in from the Emirates but the fee is hefty.

"The plane will cost between R5million and R10 million. What we are looking for is a very big plane to carry all our merchandise, preferably a 747 (jumbo jet)," Sooliman said.

The humanitarian contingent is set to fly to Haiti within 48 hours but Sooliman expressed concerns about conditions at the airport.

Those wishing to contribute to the Gift of the Givers may deposit cash into Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg account number: 052137228 Branch code: 057525