Medical professionals from Sheba Medical Center and Zambia work together to treat a child as part of their joint efforts to combat the current African Cholera outbreak.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The developed world might think cholera is a disease of the past, but in Africa the epidemic continues to rage on.
The infectious and deadly disease affects millions in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to Zambian Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya, 3,260 people in his country alone have been infected since the outbreak began last October, and more than 74 have died.
Following a request by the Zambian government to ZipBCC – a civilian firm with close ties to Sheba Medical Center – Prof. Elhanan Bar-On, director of the Tel Hashomer facility’s new Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response, arrived on the scene last week with a team of highly qualified medical professionals to assess the situation and see what can be done to help.
“One week ago I arrived here with Prof. Eli Schwartz, who is the head of Tropical Disease Institute in Sheba, and with an expert water engineer, to perform a needs assessment,” Bar-On said in a video posted on The Jerusalem Post website last week.
“Following our assessment and after meeting with the minister of health in Zambia and his team, we decided to deploy a medical team here.”
The delegation includes two physicians, two nurses and a lab technician who are working together in the central treatment center for cholera that was set up in the Zambia’s national stadium in Lusaka.
“The Israeli team is working shoulder- to-shoulder with the local health professionals in order to try eradicate this terrible disease,” Bar-On explained. In addition to treating patients, the team has established a badly needed laboratory in order to diagnose the disease.
“The last few days have seen a decrease in the number of new cholera cases recorded, possibly signifying the end of the current outbreak.
However, without care of the water and sewage infrastructure, repeated outbreaks are inevitable,” Bar-On warned.
Sheba has made disaster medicine and humanitarian aid in developing countries a priority, in keeping with the Jewish belief in tikkun olam (repairing the world) and the hospital’s long history of humanitarian aid projects, such as the center established six months ago. Prof. Bar-On believes such projects can also help enhance the reputation of Israeli medical care worldwide.
This article was written in cooperation with Sheba Medical Center.