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Young volunteers pack 5,000 care packages for children in Gaza amid ongoing aid efforts in S’pore

Straits Times | 19 March 2024

SINGAPORE - At least 300 youngsters gathered in Tampines on March 9 to help non-profit organisation Humanity Matters prepare aid packages meant for humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza.

The students helped to pack 5,000 care packages worth $100,000 in total.

Each pack included a backpack, inflatable pillow, vitamin gummies, water bottles, a stress ball, a stuffed toy and snacks.

The supplies will be flown to Jordan on March 13 for delivery to Gaza.

The efforts add to those earlier undertaken by other humanitarian aid organisations in Singapore, including the Singapore Red Cross, to send essential supplies to the city of 2.3 million people.

Reports from international organisations, including the World Health Organisation, have warned of widespread starvation and malnutrition as a result of the ongoing Hamas-Israel conflict.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam lauded the work put in by volunteers who had gathered at the Soka Kindergarten in Tampines.

More than 500 volunteers had signed up, but there was limited space at the venue, he told the media.

In a speech to volunteers, Mr Shanmugam said the situation in Gaza has worsened tragically.

“What is happening (in Gaza) is a catastrophe. Many countries in the world, Singapore included, have called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, to allow aid to reach the people, and stop the suffering.

“For many of us, when we see what is happening, it is very difficult to accept,” he added.

More than 30,800 people have been killed in the city – according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry – since the current wave of fighting began after gunmen from the Palestinian militant group went on the rampage in Israel on Oct 7, 2023.

Israel said about 1,200 people were killed and 240 were taken hostage in the incursion.

Mr Shanmugam said the war has been going on for too long and called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to allow aid to reach the people and stop the suffering.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had in January voiced support for an immediate ceasefire to facilitate delivery of aid to Gaza.

Nations and humanitarian groups have been racing to bring more aid to Palestinians, with the population on the brink of famine. The United Nations had earlier estimated that 300,000 Palestinians are living with little food or clean water.

At the event in Tampines, Mr Shanmugam noted that Singaporeans across different religious groups, the Government and other communities have collectively raised more than $10 million for relief operations in Gaza.

He reiterated what he said in October 2023, that such efforts are “a powerful demonstration of who we are as a society”.

“This is a whole-of-society effort. We come together across races, across religions, to do this, young and old, and try to make a concrete difference,” he added.

The volunteers in Tampines comprised students from junior colleges, madrasahs, polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education and secondary schools.

Representatives of seven different religious groups were also at the event.

Singapore ambassador Ong Keng Yong, who is chairman of Humanity Matters, said a team of four volunteers from the organisation will help to deliver the supplies by air to Jordan.

Mr Ong, who was accompanied by Jordan Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Samer Anton Naber, said the organisation is working with trusted partners from Jordan who will help to ensure the supplies are received by those in need.

Getting to Jordan is just the start, noted Mr Ong. He said Humanity Matters will be among hundreds of other charity organisations sending aid to Gaza.

The team needs to handle administration – often conducted in Arabic – and many rounds of security checks to ensure the supplies are allowed into Jordan, before handing them over to partnering charity organisations, which will deliver the goods to the war zone.

Meanwhile, Humanity Matters has set up an online virtual mural for the public to pen their wishes for those affected by the conflict.

“Given that the civilians affected comprise largely Gazans, Humanity Matters is engaging madrasah students and teachers to help translate the wishes to Arabic,” said the organisation.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli also spoke on March 9 about ongoing aid efforts for people in Gaza.

Mr Masagos, who is Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said Singapore charity organisation Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation (RLAF) had collected more than $8 million in donations.

“All the $8 million plus have been transferred over to UNRWA,” said Mr Masagos, who was attending an event to mark the beginning of Ramadan, which will start on March 12. UNRWA refers to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

The minister said that RLAF will hold another round of fund raising for Gaza during the fasting month.

“This new fund-raising campaign aims to rally Singaporeans to continue to donate as the situation in Gaza has become more dire,” said Mr Masagos, who was at the Assyafaah Mosque in Sembawang. 

Singapore has made several humanitarian aid contributions to Gaza, including sending a medical team to treat civilian casualties who have been taken to Egypt, and supplies such as medicine, sanitation items and food for civilians.

Singapore Red Cross had earlier sent medical supplies, food and water worth at least $250,000 to civilians in Gaza.


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