Student to drive ambulance to Rafah border to help evacuations from Gaza

Umran Ali Javaid, a mature student, will set off from Glasgow in a second-hand ambulance equipped with a portable neonatal ventilator.

Glasgow student to drive ambulance to Rafah border to help evacuations from Gaza Umran Ali Javaid

A Glasgow student is set to drive an ambulance to the Egypt-Gaza border to provide medical relief and to help evacuate civilians from Gaza.

On Thursday March 21, Umran Ali Javaid, a mature student at Glasgow Caledonian University, will set off from Glasgow in a second-hand ambulance equipped with a portable neonatal ventilator, providing breathing support for ill babies.

Travelling for “about six to seven days” to reach the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza, his journey will see him take a ferry from Dover to France before travelling through Europe.

Umran in Burma in 2017.Umran in Burma in 2017

It is not the first time the international tourism and events student, who did not wish to share his age, has undertaken such a journey, as he personally drove another ambulance to the Polish-Ukrainian border to help refugees fleeing the Russian invasion in March 2022.

The journey to Gaza will see him deliver his 41st ambulance for humanitarian aid, some of which he has delivered by himself, and others he has delivered with friends.

“The ambulances I take save lives and that’s why I continue doing this,” Mr Javaid told the PA news agency.

“Ambulances are a good way to evacuate civilians from danger zones as it gives the injured temporary medical relief – they also have distinct markings, signs and sirens which makes them easier to identify.

“During the five-day ceasefire in Gaza, a journalist saw babies (in the hospital) in their mothers’ arms passing away due to hunger as there were no portable ventilators and they could not be evacuated.

“The new ambulance I bought is kind of more of a high dependency unit to support the lives of infants – it could be used for decades if it’s not bombed or shot.

“The ambulances I delivered to Ukraine only had basic equipment like defibrillators but the recent ones are better equipped to save lives.”

Umran at the Ukraine border in 2022.Umran Ali Javaid

Mr Javaid said he is expecting a greater challenge in taking an ambulance to Gaza than he faced journeying to Ukraine because nearby Poland had been “very accommodating” with a “clear structure of bringing in aid”.

“The first time I went to the Gaza Strip, I was the driver for a convoy and didn’t know what I was doing but saw the difference ambulances make in saving lives,” said Mr Javaid, who will be visiting Gaza for a third time.

“When the Ukraine war happened I was there during the first couple of weeks and there were thousands of people needing help and seeing children and mothers in pain stayed with me,” said Mr Javaid.

The five-month-old war that was triggered by Hamas’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians and driven some 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people from their homes.

The UN says a quarter of the population is starving.

The militant attack that sparked the conflict killed around 1,200 people and saw some 250 taken hostage.

Speaking in Westminster, foreign secretary Lord David Cameron said: “If Israel really wanted to help, they could open Ashdod port which is in Israel, which is a fully functioning port that could really maximise the delivery of aid from Cyprus straight into Israel and therefore into Gaza.”

Umran at the border of Syria and Turkey.Umran Ali Javaid

With an approval from COGAT (Co-ordination of Government Activities in the Territories) in Israel and the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Javaid would be handing over the ambulance to UN agency UNRWA, the largest humanitarian organisation working inside Gaza.

“I know I can make a difference since I have been doing this for a while and have experience,” he added.

As Mr Javaid moves towards the conclusion of his studies, he plans to start an events company and use the profits to provide humanitarian aid.

“I started studying so that I can organise my own events,” he said.

“This is still in the planning stage but I will organise a big event/festival for families for thousands of people.

“It will be my own business however the profit I make, a part of that will help me buy ambulances on a larger scale. I will donate ambulances to UK care homes and donate them abroad too.”

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