A CONVOY of ambulances packed with medical aid will be driven 4,000 miles from Bolton to help injured refugees in war-torn Syria.
Volunteers from Bolton set off in two of the ex-NHS vehicles at midnight on Sunday to join another five ambulances from Scotland to make the five-day journey to Ad Dana hospital in Syria.
More than £20,000 has been raised by Boltonians for the purchase of the two ambulances, which can cost up to £4,500 each plus £1,000 in fuel costs The convoy has been organised by volunteer Kasim Jameel, from Farnworth, and eight other volunteers from Bolton and the UK Arab Society.
The ambulances are packed with life-saving equipment to take to a hospital in Idlib, a city in north-western Syria.
Volunteers will drive to Dover to catch the ferry to Dunkirk, from where they drive to Bruge in Belgium, then through Luxembourg, France, Switzerland and Italy.
The fleet will then take another 16-hour ferry journey to Greece before driving through Turkey and on into Syria. Mr Jameel, aged 32, has already been to refugee camps on the Turkey-Syria border four times since October and says the need for aid is growing every day.
Mr Jameel, who runs a car hire and taxi service business, said: “Each time I go back there it gets worse and there is a desperate need for humanitarian aid.
“They have no shoes, no clothes and hardly any food. They’ve got nothing.
“I gave some of the kids some lollies and they went crazy about them.”
The fleet of ambulances have been bought from Blue Lights in Atherton, a company that sells and hires ex-NHS vehicles.
Defibrillators, stethoscopes and oxygen concentrate are just some of the supplies medical teams need to help wounded civilians.
Mohomad Elhaddad, of the UK Arab Society, was on hand in Atherton on Saturday to supervise the preparations for the journey.
He said: “Communities in Bolton have helped fund this convoy and the need for aid grows more desperate every time we go over because of the war.
“We have sent 160 vehicles to Syria already over the last eight months. But the aid we provide is just a drop in the ocean and the international community must provide more humanitarian aid to help save lives.”
The volunteers will fly back from Turkey in a week.