We're in Haiti thanks to you
Diaspora donations have enabled MDA to help at disasters like these
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When we arrived in Port-au-Prince on Monday morning, it was the end of a journey that had taken over 48 hours and seen us stop off in Madrid, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic before we finally settled at our base camp in Haiti.
The field hospital we are working in has been established in the courtyard of the partially destroyed University Hospital, the largest in Port-au-Prince. Our six-man team is working with Red Cross delegations from around the world, most prominently in our case those of Finland and Norway. However, without doubt, most interest is arising from the contribution of our delegation and Israel in general.
In the brief conversations I have had with family and colleagues back home, everyone speaks with much national pride regarding the role Israel is playing. Some journalists have even suggested that the various delegations from our small country, Magen David Adom’s included, are leading the way in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy. It is not for me to say if that is right or not. We are just doing our job. As part of the International Red Cross Movement, Magen David Adom coordinates medical emergency training and assistance across the world. It is well known that we have assisted with aid on our immediate borders, helping those in need from Gaza and Jordan. What is perhaps less well documented is the ongoing training that takes place in countries such as Ghana, Indonesia and Azerbaijan. In places where there is no expertise in mass-casualty events, Magen David Adom is seen as the leader in the field. Of course, there are times when the theory needs to be put in to practice. Magen David Adom has been in war-torn Rwanda, earthquake-hit India and was present in the direct aftermath of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka.
And now Haiti. A scene of devastation and destruction on a greater scale than any of us have ever witnessed before. Amidst the rubble, rescue efforts are sporadic — travelling through the city we saw only two. Bodies are strewn across the streets.
Locals are always amazed that Israel is playing such an important life-saving role
Of those that survived, thousands now have only the displaced persons’ camp for a home. There is no electricity or water. It is clear that the people of Haiti are dependent on aid activity from the likes of Magen David Adom and the Red Cross, amongst others. Locals are always amazed that Israel is playing such an important life-saving role. So when, as happened over the weekend, a mother names her newborn baby “Israel”’ in honour of the people that saved her life, you really do feel like an ambassador for our country and the Jewish people around the world.
In Israel, we are aware of the significant financial contribution made to Magen David Adom by friends around the world. Nearly every station, ambulance or piece of equipment is funded by donors in London, New York, Johannesburg or similar. Our gratitude to you is sincere.
Yet it pales in to irrelevance when you consider that the support Magen David Adom receives from the diaspora is actually what enables our team to be in Haiti now.
The humanitarian, international aid element of our work runs to a budget of several million US dollars a year. This is very much a Jewish contribution to humanity in general.
Magen David Adom is proud to represent Israel on the world stage. But above and beyond that, we realise how important it is to Jewish people around the world. So, next time you see the footage on BBC, Sky or CNN of the Israeli teams in action, you should have pride too.
Not just that Israel is leading the way, but that through your generosity and desire to make Magen David Adom one of the best, if not the best, medical emergency organisations in the world, you are saving more lives in Haiti today, somewhere else tomorrow and in Israel forever.
Haim Rafalovski is head of the MDA delegation to Haiti