IDF field hospital Philippines 370.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman’s Office)
BOGO CITY, Philippines – On Monday, November 11, a text message on my cellphone
invited me to join the IDF delegation to the Philippines.
hours, I was on a plane with over 100 people, most of whom I had never
The Philippines is made up of 7,000 islands and has a population of
close to 100 million. A 12-hour flight away from Tel Aviv, a whole different
world reveals itself. The weather is hot, humidity tops 80 percent and it rains
every day – typical tropical weather.
We land at a small airport in a
desolate provincial capital.
The airport is bustling; a plane carrying
humanitarian aid lands every few minutes.
There are piles of boxes and
equipment everywhere. We are received in a loving and warm manner by the people,
the police officers and the military personnel, who accompany us throughout our
stay. The journey to the disaster-stricken area takes three hours. On the way,
the damage the storm has wreaked is evident everywhere – fallen electrical
poles, roofless houses and no electricity.
We reach our
The local hospital is manned by only three doctors. It lacks
equipment and medicine, and the staff are overwhelmed by an endless flow of
Within a few hours, we have unloaded our equipment and set up
tents in front of the hospital, and we are at work.
The locals are
destitute, and the rumor of free medical treatment from the IDF delegation
spreads rapidly across the region.
On the first day, we are met by queues
of hundreds of men, women and children. All of the doctors from the delegation
treat dozens of patients every day. We hear stories of homes destroyed by the
storm, and flooded fields. Most of the people we see manage to remain
optimistic, to keep smiling and to prepare to rebuild the ruins.
optimism is especially noticeable among the children, who adapt quickly to any
Work begins early in the morning, and the days are
Despite having a diverse medical team and advanced equipment, we
can’t help everyone. It’s tough to handle and weighs heavily on us.
work is intense and carries on late into the night, when we sit and talk and
digest the day’s events and analyze the cases we have seen. Being able to help
so many people gives us great satisfaction – be it bandaging a simple wound,
stitching a cut, treating pneumonia, conducting a life-saving operation or even
just being able to offer words of encouragement.
We touched the hearts of
thousands of people who will always have a place in their hearts for the State
We miss our homes and families, but we understand that we are
part of a remarkable mission.
Working under pressure creates a team
spirit, and within a short time we feel like we have known each other
Back in Israel, we lead comfortable lives, surrounded by family
and friends. Being part of the aid delegation has been an extraordinary,
powerful and Jewish experience that will always remain with me.Maj.
(res.) Prof. Alon Peres is an internal medicine specialist and head of the Safra
Genetic Institute at Sheba Medical Center.
The IDF delegation returns to
Israel Wednesday after nearly two weeks in the Philippines treating the victims
of Typhoon Haiyan. The 148-strong delegation treated 2,686 patients at its field
hospital in Bogo City, 848 of whom were children.