Israel Aids Poor Countries; Helps Sick Children from Haiti, South Sudan

Jerusalem, July 24 - Amy Mariolata, a 12-year-old girl from a village near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was recently saved by a rare open-heart surgery performed in Israel. Amy was treated after Israeli doctors learned that she had rheumatic heart disease at the Israeli field hospital in Haiti.

Within days of Haiti's earthquake in January 2010, Israel set up a field hospital and treated hundreds of patients there. Israel also delivered critical medical supplies and equipment to Haiti.

Like Amy, large populations of children in Haiti still suffer from rheumatic heart disease.

Dr. David Mishali, head of the International Congenital Heart Center at Israel's Sheba Medical Center that performed Amy's surgery, said that a heart-valve replacement was necessary to save Amy's life.

Sheba Medical Center financed Amy's critical valve replacement surgery and her and her mother's transportation to Israel.

Almost half of the children treated by Sheba's heart center are not Israeli. They are often Palestinian children from Gaza and the West Bank.

"I think children are children everywhere," said Mishali said about Sheba's diverse clients.

"When you see what they mean for their parents, it's the same all over the world. It doesn't matter who they are," added Mishali.

Israel has a history of aiding developing countries.

Following Japan's tsunami and earthquake in March 2011, Israel was one of the first countries to set up a field hospital and send humanitarian aid and a team of experts there. The team consisted of medical personnel, water specialists, search and rescue specialists and more.

IsraAid, a coalition of Israeli and Jewish groups that provides assistance to developing countries, is sending humanitarian cargoes to the newly independent South Sudan. The group is also assessing a "long term aid mission that would benefit children, women and elders in the most affected communities" for South Sudan.

"It is our mission and Jewish commitment to reach out to our new friends in any way we can" stated Shachar Zahavi, Founding Director of IsraAID.

South Sudan has nearly 90 percent illiteracy and most citizens do not have access to clean water and security. In recent months over 117,000 people were displaced and almost 1,400 killed following the conflict between the South and the North. Over 4 million Sudanese are still internally displaced.

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