HUMANITARIAN -- helping others in Israel and abroad

Emergency Rescue in Nairobi

Following the collapse of a building in Nairobi, Kenya, in late January 2006, an IDF rescue delegation was immediately sent in, bringing with it state of the art equipment. This, for unfortunate reasons, is a kind of help that Israel is superb at managing. Because of the potential for collapsed buildings in the course of terrorist attacks, special IDF units are trained for this. In this instance, as in many others, there were lives saved by the IDF; after the crisis there was a request by Nairobi that Israel provide their people with rescue training.

Yad Sarah

Almost everyone in Israel knows about Yad Sarah (hand of Sarah) -- a huge non-profit, non-sectarian, volunteer operation. There is no organization like it in the world, and, while accepted as a routine part of the scene, it is a source of tremendous pride in terms of how Israel operates:

At the heart of Yad Sarah is a huge lending system, with tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment provided short-term on as needed-basis each year, free of charge. The equipment is primarily medical: crutches, wheelchairs, oxygen concentrators, hospital beds, electronic monitors, etc. and includes items for new mothers. A stock of over 250,000 items is maintained.

Supplemental to this is a variety of other services including rehabilitation centers, drop-in centers for the elderly and chronically ill, and an enrichment center for disabled children. There is even a center for displaying equipment that is not available for loan from Yad Sarah (e.g., orthopedic chairs for long term use), so people can be informed of what is available without needing to do research or shop around.

With 100 locations and a budget of $13 million, Yad Sarah aims to keep the ill and the elderly at home rather than in hospitals to the greatest degree possible. Very often, being able to borrow equipment enables patients to recuperate at home or leave the hospital sooner.

The organization serves as a model and inspiration for health and welfare professionals in other nations. Representatives of Jordan's Red Crescent have visited the organization's national headquarters in Jerusalem to learn about Yad Sarah's services and how they might be adoptedfor their use. Yad Sarah has also helped set up similar 'helping centers' in the former USSR, Cameroon and Angola.

Yad Sarah was founded almost 30 years ago by Uri Lupolianski, the current mayor of Jerusalem and a member of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community.

Save A Child's Heart

Save a Child's Heart provides urgently needed pediatric cardiac surgery and advanced follow-up care for children from developing countries suffering congenital heart diseases. The children are from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zanzibar, Congo, China, Viet Nam, Ghana, Jordan, Moldova, the Ukraine and the Palestinian Authority. Surgical and medical teams travel overseas to train and perform surgeries on site and screen children that will come to Israel for treatment. To date, some 750 children's lives have been saved.

Medical Outreach

Ben Gurion University Faculty of Health Sciences (BGU) in Beersheva and Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in New York City are cooperating in the establishment of a new medical school that teaches international health and medicine. This is a first, as physicians trained at Ben Gurion via this program will be adept in cross-cultural medicine. The physicians in training, who are an extraordinarily altruistic lot, are study language and culture as well as medicine. In the fourth year of the program, they are sent out into the field for two month internships -- where they are exposed to such things as HIV patients in Kenya who are 2 or 3 to a bed, exotic parasitic infections in Ethiopia, reconstructive surgery for leprosy patients in India.

IsraAID

Israel officially invests some $11 million annually in humanitarian assistance to other nations for disaster response, medical assistance and agricultural instructions in the developing world.

IsraAID is a four-year old umbrella organization that coordinates many of the supplemental non-governmental responses on the part of 30 different groups. There is a group that does AIDs awareness in Africa; Magen David Adom sends medical personnel out in an emergency, etc.

Drip Irrigation in Africa

In 2004, Professor Dov Pasternak, of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, developed a farming system for farmers with small parcels of land, in Niger, in sub-Saharan Africa.

Called African Market Garden, the project represented the first farmer operated pressurized drip irrigation system in Niger, and probably in all of West Africa. This system has helped to optimize the use of scarce arable land through the production of high-valued crops, such as vegetables and fruit, with high efficiency, thereby providing the farmer and his family with a steady source of income.

Israel is the original innovator of water-conserving drip irrigation. Gravity Drip Irrigation, with the judicious application of fertilizers, allows available arable land to support more people. A single farmer working a one-eighth acre lot can earn $4,000 per annum in a country where the per capita GDP is $800. One of the leaders of the local farming association reported, "We are planting vegetables throughout the year, instead of once. Before, we struggled with the water. This help from the Israeli Embassy has really put us forward. We are doing well."