Israeli organizations playing major role in relief efforts
By Daniel Horowitz--Responding to the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that wreaked havoc on the Caribbean nation of Haiti on Tuesday, January 12, IsraAID, an Israeli-based search and rescue team supported by United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto*, landed in Port-au-Prince less than three days later and its life-saving efforts continue today.
In fact, thanks to the generous and compassionate response from Toronto’s Jewish community, a second IsraAID team is expected to land in Haiti shortly in order to expand the scale of its operation to meet the needs of the victims following the recent powerful 6.1 magnitude aftershock.
So far, United Jewish Appeal’s Hope for Haiti Relief Fund, which is raising money to support IsraAid’s efforts, has raised $1,000,000. Every dollar donated to the fund will be matched by the government of Canada. These matching dollars will be sent by the government to its Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund to support vital relief efforts.
IsraAID is a coordinating body of Israeli and Jewish NGOs in Israel that provides humanitarian aid worldwide. United Jewish Appeal has previously supported its work following earthquakes in Peru and Pakistan, on the border of Darfur, and after Hurricane Katrina and the recent typhoon in the Philippines.
Donations made to the Hope for Haiti Relief Fund support the work of IsraAID, specifically in the areas of emergency medicine, search and rescue, post-trauma counseling and water purification. IsraAID members are also in talks with various hi-tech companies specializing in restoring collapsed communications networks.
Immediately upon arriving in Port-au-Prince, IsraAID’s medical professionals rushed to join local physicians at the site of the city’s collapsed central hospital where thousands of wounded gathered, desperate for help.
"The scenes in the hospital were horrible," said Nurse Sheva Cohen from Kibbutz Ein Yahav in the Negev. "We saw people everywhere on the floors, in the building and outside; people with amputations and bone-deep wounds, hundreds of them. The size of the catastrophe is unbelievable. Until we arrived, all of the injured were treated by only one local doctor and we were the first foreign backup team to operate in the hospital."
"It's been said that a community’s true nature is determined by how it rallies around those in need," said Alan Winer, chair, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. "If that’s true, we should all be so proud of how our community has rallied around the people of Haiti. And I can’t express just how proud I am of the State of Israel which, through IsraAid, ZAKA, the IDF, and other organizations, has responded at a time of great need. Israel’s relief workers are jeopardizing their own lives to assist complete strangers facing incredible challenges."
The IsraAID operation is part of an overall Herculean Israeli relief effort. Two IDF teams, comprised of search and rescue personnel and canine operators are going out on rescue missions. The IDF Medical and Rescue team has been treating patients at a field hospital in Port-au-Prince. The field hospital is prepared to receive dozens of ambulances evacuating injured children from the different disaster stricken areas. The hospital, which can treat 500 patients a day, includes 40 doctors, 25 nurses, paramedics, a pharmacy, a children’s ward, a radiology department, an intensive care unit, an emergency room, two operating rooms, a surgical department, an internal medicine department and a maternity ward.
One week after the hurricane struck CNN reported that Israel was the first to have sent a field hospital equipped with all that is required for surgical operations. Doctors from various missions send patients requiring surgery to Israel’s makeshift hospital, particularly those whose condition is critical, the news network said.
According to the report, other field hospitals contain no more than stretcher beds and medical teams who administer first aid, and are not prepared for complex surgery. In addition, a six-man delegation from ZAKA’s International Rescue Unit organization (four from Israel and two from Mexico) succeeded, after 38 grueling hours, in pulling eight students from a collapsed eight-storey Port-au-Prince university building.
Donations to United Jewish Appeal's Hope for Haiti Relief Fund can be made through www.ujadonations.com/haiti or by calling 416.631.5705.
* Funds raised are allocated to United Israel Appeal Canada. IsraAid delivers relief services in Haiti for UIA Canada.