Doctor heads up emergency relief

Dr Aziz Hafiz, the new Humanity First director of international disaster relief

Dr Aziz Hafiz, the new Humanity First director of international disaster relief

First published in Keighley

A Keighley-born GP has been appointed to a top post with a charity providing help to disaster victims across the world.

And Dr Aziz Hafiz, the new director of international disaster relief with Humanity First, is heading to Jordan within days to see if the organisation can help desperate refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

There are currently 2.5 million people – more than half of them children – seeking refuge.

Dr Hafiz, president of Keighley Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, will meet UN and British Embassy staff in Amman and visit a refugee camp.

He said the main aim of the three-day visit was to establish if Humanity First could assist by providing schooling for the children.

“A large proportion of the refugees are youngsters and many have been orphaned,” said Dr Hafiz, a father of two boys, aged nine and six.

“The UN has done a massive amount, but it is crying out for charities to fill the gaps.

“We work closely with the authorities and other organisations internationally in these situations to help establish what assistance is required and whether we could offer help on the ground.

“In Jordan, we will be looking at the possibility of sending teachers to the refugee camps.”

The charity, based in Britain with branches globally, has teams of volunteers from many different professions, who offer their services in times of need.

It was formed about 20 years ago by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, but is a non-religious organisation, with members from all backgrounds and walks of life.

“We are a small player in terms of disaster relief, but we like to think we punch above our weight,” said Dr Hafiz, 40, a former pupil of the old Greenhead School in Keighley.

“We have helped the victims of many disasters over the years, from the tsunami of 2004 to hurricanes and earthquakes.”

Where needed, the organisation can send a rapid response medical team – including surgeons and paramedics – within 24 hours of being alerted.

But help may also be provided longer term, as people in shattered communities try to rebuild their lives.

“Assistance is often needed as the community attempts to get back on its feet, and we have people who can help in many ways,” added Dr Hafiz.

“It’s not just in the immediate aftermath of a disaster that we can be there.”

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