Israel Sending Help to Storm-Struck Philippines

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israel is mobilizing government and private resources to rush to the aid of the storm-devastated Philippines, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.

The IsraAID humanitarian group has already sent a medical team to Tacloban City, and the Foreign Ministry announced a search and rescue team and doctors would soon be sent.

“It’s really hard to get any accurate numbers as far as [the scale of the] damage is concerned,” IsraAID founding director Shahar Zahavi said. “Since the area is so hard to reach right now, there’s a lot of doubt about the actual statistics. It’ll take a few days, but right now the most I can say is that people are comparing it to the 2004 [Indian Ocean] tsunami” that killed 230,000 to 280,000 in 14 countries.

“The immediate goal and first priority is to be aware of the whole injury side of the situation,” Zahavi said. “People don’t have any more health facilities, so our first goal is health intervention.”

A six-member advance team — four from the IDF Home Front Command and two from the Foreign Ministry — flew out on Sunday night to evaluate the situation before a larger mission is assembled.

“After the immediate medical issues are addressed, the next concerns are issues like the influx of people who have become homeless,” Zahavi said. “And in the days after, people start getting sick, and then there’s not enough food to go around. So the needs change as the process unfolds.”

Zahavi foresees a longterm effort. He noted that IsraAID still maintains personnel in Haiti and Japan to aid since the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

“Our goal is not to do this in a hit-and-run type of fashion,” he said. “Our ability to maintain a presence there will depend on a lot of things like available resources and funding, but we want to provide a more holistic approach that focuses on long-term aid rather than just immediate relief.”