Johannesburg – South Africans have dug deep into their pockets and donated more than R9 million in aid to war-torn Syria.
They were moved by the heartbreaking images of the situation in Aleppo, said Pretoria-based social cohesion advocate and #SAveSyria co-ordinator Yusuf Abramjee on Tuesday.
He said he had been inundated with calls from various individuals and organisations since fighting broke out in Aleppo.
They said they wanted to help after seeing pictures of dead and injured children.
Aleppo is a city in Syria that made headlines in recent weeks after Syrian regime forces retook the city, formerly held by the rebels.
Images of thousands of people, including children, caught in the crossfire have emerged, and this encouraged South Africans to take a stand and support them.
“Exactly 11 days ago I was inundated with calls from various individuals and NGOs saying the images of Aleppo of the dead children were heartbreaking, and asked if there was anything they could do as South Africans,” according to Abramjee.
He said he immediately began calling his activist friends to do something to help the people of Syria.
“OperationSA was meant to start in the new year to help with humanitarian efforts in South Africa and all over the world, but due to the urgency of the matter, we decided to launch #SAveSyria.”
This effort has seen Abramjee join hands with former public protector Thuli Madonsela, and together they are raising money for relief.
Madonsela also worked with Abramjee on #OperationHydrate during the height of the 2015-2016 drought, which affected large parts of the country.
The campaign collected water from wetter areas and sent it to areas that had become parched from the intense heat and lack of rain.
“We asked South Africans to start pledging online, and we received R250 000 worth of pledges.
“Then we had a pledge line on ITV and community radio stations between 7.30pm and 11.30pm.”
During those four hours people pledged R10.2 million, which will be given to seven charities chosen to use the money and their skills to aid Syria.
“Currently in the account we have R9.3 million, and that is what we will be handing over to the seven charities.”
Abramjee said this was “ubuntu in action”, where South Africans young and old disregarded their own financial standing or economic situation to extend a helping hand to those in need.
He spoke of children donating their pocket money as well as a family in Laudium, Tshwane, who did not want to be named, who chose to forgo their holiday and instead donated the money to #SAveSyria.
The campaign will give six charities R1m each on Wednesday, while the Al-Imdaad Foundation will receive R3.6m as a special request from the Polokwane community.
Madonsela will address the charities during the handing-over ceremony.
“We don’t want a rand to go towards salaries, travel, commission, etc,” said Abramjee.
The charities would have to explain how they intended spending the money.
He also said they would be donating a container with clothing, sanitary towels and food to Syria, with another one being sent next month.
The money from the on- going pledges would be given to the seven charities to further their aid efforts.
“We will also be going to Syria for a fact-finding mission and to see where all the donated money went,” said Abramjee.
The foundations involved are Jamiatul Ulama SA, Africa Muslims Agency, Jamiatul Ulama KwaZulu-Natal, Darul Islam Relief Fund/Muslim Judicial Council (SA), Islamic Relief SA, Al-Quds Foundation and Al-Imdaad Foundation.