UKZN Academic Joins Relief Mission in Syria
Head of the Discipline of Dietetics at UKZN, Professor Frederick Veldman, recently returned from a relief mission to war-torn Syria with the Gift of the Givers Foundation – the largest non-governmental disaster relief organisation of African origin.
March this year marked the second anniversary of the pervading and devastating civil war in Syria.
Veldman was part of a relief team working from the town of Darkoush about 30km inland from the Turkish border and within rebel-held territory.
The tense and arduous political situation in the region has seen medical and relief care becoming increasingly problematic for those affected by the ongoing violence and unrest to access. The availability of food and access to even the most basic level of health care have been scarce and often unavailable in many parts of the country.
Veldman has not only been actively involved in field-relief but has also partnered with the Gift of the Givers Foundation in scientifically investigating the food supplement, Sibusiso, which the NGO began using in 2004.
Sibusiso, on which no pervasive scientific research has been done in terms of its nutritional impact, is currently being used extensively in several African countries as an effective supplement for managing conditions in which nutrition is a key factor, such as HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis.
Two UKZN Masters Students in Dietetics have completed extensive research on Sibusiso, and their research findings are currently being published.
Veldman, who has also done relief work in Somalia, said: ‘Unfortunately, it is the people on the ground who suffer most. They have no food or medical care and there is a tangible sense of hopelessness everywhere,’.
Lasting just under two weeks, the relief mission was cut short by the intensified war situation in the country. ‘There were bombs going off within close proximity of where we were stationed and as the situation dramatically worsened we had to leave,’ explained Veldman.
Besides providing expertise in terms of his scientific knowledge, Veldman has vowed to continue in his relief work and to speak openly in terms of the situations in Syria in an effort to draw awareness to the circumstances of the people there.
*Veldman recently spoke on the Syrian crisis on the SABC television show An Nur, where Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, Founder of the Gift of the Givers Foundation, also shared his views on the state of affairs in the region.
- Barrington Marais