Feb 25, 2010

First Burn Center in Congo - joint Israeli & USA effort

Most of the international media wrongly connects the words "Israel" and "humanitarian" to "violations" and "Palestinian" (Google the first two words), however Israel is also connected to other leading humanitarian efforts worldwide.

The Israeli nonprofit aid organization Moriah Africa (an IsraAID member) has joined hands with Los Angeles human rights organization Jewish World Watchhttp://www.jewishworldwatch.org/ and MASHAV, the Israeli Foreign Ministry aid arm, to establish a Burn Center in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Center will be housed in the large central government hospital in Bukavu, a key city not only in eastern Congo but also in the wider Great Lakes region.

In a country of 65 million people, where almost the entire population continues to cook over open fires and constant insecurity acutely limits access to medical care, burns and their crippling, disfiguring after-effects are relatively widespread. Yet modern treatment for basic burns and skin trauma is nonexistent. This burn center will be the first ever established in Eastern Congo.

Working together with Israel’s Rambam and Soroka hospitals, the medical exchange effort has brought expertise and initiative together for the purpose of expanding the surgical skill level and creating a center for reparative plastic surgery for the Congolese population. Combining modern training, equipment, supplies, evaluation and follow-up, the project is a multi-phase effort. With support from the partners—Moriah Africa, Jewish World Watch, and MASHAV--Rambam Hospital provided Phase I training to a Congolese general surgeon, Dr. Leon Mubenga. Phase II began on February 19, when Dr. Mubenga returned to DRC with an Israeli plastic surgeon specialist, Dr. Eldad Silberstein from Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva.

Now in Bukavu, in addition to daily lecture sessions each morning, Dr. Silberstein is currently training surgeons from six area hospitals in reparative plastic surgery techniques via intensive surgical intervention activity for more than eight hours each day. Surgeons are divided into teams to have two surgical theaters in operation simultaneously. Dr. Silberstein provides guidance, and with the help of the new equipment, surgeons from the six area hospitals are learning to practice their new skills. A transformation is taking place, not only in terms of changed patients but also in terms of changed surgeons.

These are the first steps in setting up the burn center. It is an ongoing process that will continue to grow. Given the very positive and productive beginning, Moriah Africa, Jewish World Watch and MASHAV are looking forward to the next steps.

"As the word has spread, the numbers of new patients arriving daily to the hospital here is astounding,” said Gila Garaway, director of Moriah Africa. “I knew there was a problem but had no idea how many maimed people have stayed hidden away. It is a great gift to see this rich blessing unfolding here."

Tzivia Schwartz-Getzug, Executive Director of Jewish World Watch, added: “We are proud to support this program that will also help the doctors in Eastern Congo expand their expertise, and make available modern equipment and treatment protocols that will immeasurably benefit burn victims there for years to come.”

About Moriah Africa: The mission of Moriah Africa is to stimulate and facilitate local, regional, and national initiatives, with a focus on providing expertise to support the realization of this vision through training and training seminars, training materials for medical personnel, agricultural experts, water and sanitation engineers, English teachers, program designers and others. The effort has also included financial support, supplies and equipment for schools, health and training centers. Moriah Africa works through partnerships with communities, Government Organizations, and Non-Governmental Organizations.

About Jewish World Watch: Jewish World Watch, a Los Angeles-based human rights organization, is a coalition of 64 synagogues working together to combat genocide and other egregious violations of human rights worldwide. Since its founding five years ago, JWW has achieved significant success within its three mission goals: education, advocacy and humanitarian relief, having allocated almost $4 million in direct assistance to the people of Darfur. It now begins a campaign to end the atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well.

For more information, see www.jewishworldwatch.org.

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