Haiti President thanks Israel for help

IDF to decide Sunday on how long aid and rescue mission will stay on earthquake-stricken island.

By JUDY SIEGEL,
January 22, 2010 05:54
3 minute read.
Daniel Kedar squeezes at the IDF hospital the hand

haiti idf hospital 311. (photo credit: E.B. Solomont)

Haitian President Rene Preval on Thursday said his country appreciated the aid that Israel has provided to those hurt in last week's devastating earthquake.

Brig.-Gen. Shalom Ben-Aryeh, commander of the Israeli field hospital in Port-au-Prince, said that the IDF delegation would return home only after it was confident that the wounded were receiving proper treatment.

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The United States is supposed to begin receiving more patients on a ship-based hospital on Sunday. Until then, the only real functioning facilities are being run by the IDF and the Russians, who have opened a small 20-bed field hospital.

"As long as we don't have someone authoritative to take our wounded we won't leave," Ben-Aryeh said.

The IDF hospital, he said, has treated more than 450 patients, delivered seven babies and performed dozens of surgeries.

On Sunday, once the American hospital start functioning, Ben-Aryeh said that he planned to hold consultations with the IDF brass about returning to Israel. There is a possibility that replacements for current members of the delegation will be sent to Haiti if the IDF decides to remain on the island.

"The decision will be made on Sunday," he said. "If we decide to stay longer we will replace some of the teams."



Preval, speaking to Channel 10, noted that "this disaster has not only harmed people," but had also rendered his government helpless. "One must understand that the damage caused was comprehensive and has affected every aspect of Haitian society," the president said.

Following a request from the US and UN, the Israel Police will send dozens of armed officers to join peacekeeping efforts in the Caribbean country, the Public Security Ministry said. The 100 policemen will undergo a short period of physical and mental preparation and training before going on their mission.

A 12-year-old girl and her seven-year-old brother who were pulled by American teams from their collapsed home in Haiti were released from the IDF Medical Corps field hospital on Wednesday. An eight-year-old boy was pulled alive from the rubble of a house on Wednesday after a week without food or water.

About 400 wounded and sick have been treated at the field hospital, which is located in a soccer field in the center of town, with about 140 operations carried out by the Israelis.

Also on Wednesday, Israeli medical teams on the island treated a Lebanese citizen who was in Haiti at the time of the quake and was injured. Only about a 100 survivors were pulled from collapsed buildings.

Magen David Adom reported that on the day of the earthquake, a 10-year-old boy named Nadi Chalmers waited outside a UN building in Port-au-Prince where his mother, Lisa, a US citizen, was working. Lisa, a human rights activist, was attending a meeting inside and was killed. No one knew what had happened to the boy.

In France, his Jewish grandparents were told about the tragic death of their daughter. A family member in Israel called MDA's Missing Persons Department, headed by Borya Kozokin - who was sent a photo of their first and only grandson.

The photo and details were sent to the MDA delegation that entered Haiti via the Dominican Republic and are serving with the Norwegian Red Cross. The photo was placed on the special MDA Web site.

A few days later, the boy was found outside the UN building by one of Lisa's co-workers, who managed to escape the collapse and took the child to Santo Domingo. The grandparents were informed by MDA, and their other daughter flew there to bring him to France. The family thanked MDA and its Missing Persons Department - which was established more than six decades ago to reunite families after the Holocaust - for making his identification and reunion with his family possible.

Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman sent a letter of appreciation to the Israeli medical delegation. He said that the medical community in Israel and around the world marvelled at their accomplishments and continued to follow them.

They are "not only physicians but also ambassadors of good will," Eidelman said, "and have demonstrated their true humanity."


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