Israeli Relief To Myanmar Is Getting Through
As the death toll in Myanmar (formerly Burma) rises to more than 23,335, according to official reports, and the risk of disease mounts, Israeli relief workers have flown out to the disaster torn region.
Some experts are saying that the impact of Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar on May 3, could be worse than the 2004 tsunami, if relief isn't flown in immediately. Experts estimate that 1.5 million people have been affected by the cyclone, and some aid agencies believe as many as 100,000 people were killed in the disaster.
After the news broke, members of Israel's volunteer umbrella organization IsraAID (The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid), started brainstorming about what they could do. They decided to send a small expert team of doctors, nurses and water specialists to Myanmar to provide immediate relief.
The team would also be charged with reporting back to Israel about the next stages of relief.
"We saw on the TV what was happening in Burma and decided that we would have to try and find a way to provide assistance," Shachar Zahavi, the director of IsraAID, told ISRAEL21c.
The executive members of IsraAID who represent 15 non-governmental organizations in Israel, selected a team of volunteers from two Israeli NGOs: Fast Israeli Rescue & Search Team (F.I.R.S.T) and Israeli Flying Aid.
Dr. Ephraim Laor, Israel's top specialist in disaster relief, who is in direct contact with the United Nations, heads the relief team.
Mid-week satellite images from NASA didn't look good -- showing the entire coastal plains hit by the cyclone under water.
Flying in last Thursday, under the IsraAID umbrella and in partnership with the United Nations, the team is expected to stay in Myanmar for three weeks. They will know the exact location of deployment only once they fly into Myanmar's capital city Rangoon.
They do know that the Israeli doctors and nurses will treat the sick, and the water experts will help assess what water is safest for immediate human consumption.
On Tuesday last week, thousands of bodies could be seen floating throughout rice paddies and as the death toll rises, according to media reports, those still alive are homeless and running low on food and safe drinking water.
Despite the media reports that Myanmar's military rulers are barring certain foreign aid relief workers from entering the country, Zahavi says that the Israeli team has noticed no problems when working with the Myanmar Embassy in Tel Aviv, and foresees no problems in the future.
IsraAID and Israeli relief workers have a long history of helping people around the world in dire need, Zahavi tells ISRAEL21c
They sent relief after Hurricane Katrina, they were on the scene giving relief after the 2004 tsunami, and are continually providing support on the Chad-Sudan border, as part of a larger scale program of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS).
Due to their dedication, passion and expertise, Israeli relief workers have played a major role in saving thousands of lives. Donations to help fund Israeli relief are provided by organizations and individuals around the world including Mark Solomon from CMS Companies in the US, The Jewish Federation of Toronto, and B'nai B'rith International.
"These are a few our constant supporters," adds Zahavi. "They believe in Israel's need to respond to disasters."
Turkey, 1999- Israel sends 100 tons of relief and a field hospital, as well as a 250 member rescue team. They find 12 survivors and retrieve 146 bodies. The hospital performed 40 major surgeries and delivered 15 babies.
Bosnia, 1992- In one day, Israel sent 13 tons of food and medical supplies to Zagreb. Israel was the first country to grant Muslim Bosnians refugee status and citizenship, in 1993.
Kosovo, 1999- Israel sends a 100 bed hospital and 70 medical personnel, as well as 100 tons of aid for the Kosovar refugees.
India, 2001- Following the January earthquake, Israel sends a field hospital and 150 medical personnel. Over 1200 treated and 12 babies delivered.
Nairobi, 1999- After the American Embassy bombing, Israel dispatches 150 search and rescue, medical and rescue dogs and their handlers. Also sent were 30 tons of sophisticated rescue equipment. Three survivors were dug out of the wreckage.
Mexico City, 1985- Israel sends search and rescue teams as well as trained S&R dogs to assist, after 2 powerful earthquakes leave thousands buried under the rubble.
Armenia, 1988- Israel sends search and rescue units and aid following an earthquake that leaves 30,000 dead and 50,000 homeless. Israeli medical teams treat 2500 at a field hospital and evacuate 61 to Israel for advanced medical treatment.
Buenos Aires, 1994- Israel dispatches 40 search and rescue team members as well as sophisticated rescue equipment, to help in the aftermath of the Jewish Community Center bombing. Many buried victims were rescued and treated.
Afghanistan, 1998- Israel sends 15 tons of supplies, including tents, blankets, food and medicine after an earthquake hit the northern part of that country.
Colombia, 1999- Israel sends aid sent to that country after a major earthquake.
Greece, 1999- Israel send aid and and search and rescue teams to that country after an earthquake.
El Salvador, 2001- Israel send aid after a major earthquake. A medical team was also dispatched.
Vietnamese Boat People, 1977- there were 66 Vietnamese boat people granted refuge in Israel after having been denied safe haven by other countries.
Cameroon, 1986- An Israeli medical team and supplies were sent to help people after a volcanic eruption. Thousand are treated for respiratory problems and burns.
Central America, 1988- In response to the devastation of hurricane Mitch, Israeli medical personnel and aid is sent to Guatemala, Honduras, San Salvador and Nicaragua.
Bulgaria, 1997- Medical supplies (over a ton) were sent as a humanitarian gesture to alleviate shortages of medical supplies.
Rwanda, 1994- As a result of a bloody civil war that left over a million dead and millions more as refugees, Israel send 270 doctors and other medical personnel. A field hospital is established. Over 3000 refugees are treated in a 40 day period.
The list goes on- Mozambique, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka, just to name a few others. And it isn’t just about disasters. See this and wonder- wonder, how for even a moment, we would consider seeing Israel the way the TS&A want you to see her.
Despite her own trials at home, Israel is on record as coming to the aid of over 140 nations. And now, Israel accused of a most heinous crime- attempting to defend her own citizens- that same obligation that every free country has to her citizens. Who are her accusers? The TS&A (terrorists, supporters and apologizers). Any way you cut it, the TS&A are not the moral equals of Israel, the US or any free country. They deserve no place at the table and they cannot be taken as equals in any other venue. As we said yesterday, recess is over. It’s time to declare your intentions and take sides.