Israel comes to Congo's rescue

Tech company donated medically sterilized tents to help African country in wake of explosion.

Congolese defense minister 521 (photo credit: Courtesy SYS Technologies)
Congolese defense minister 521
(photo credit: Courtesy SYS Technologies)
Israel was still a young and developing nation when it set out on one of its first international aid missions in 1953. The Greek island of Kefalonia had been rocked by an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale. Four Israeli warships steaming close by the island quickly responded with deliveries of food, water and badly needed medical assistance. Such emergency aid ventures would become a national tradition.
In 1958, Israel’s Foreign Ministry created the MASHAV agency for International Development Cooperation in order to offer humanitarian assistance to needy populations around the world.
MASHAV has evolved over the ensuing decades and today is engaged in numerous projects providing foreign aid to areas struck by natural disasters and other catastrophes.
In late 2004, when the devastating tsunami hit Southeast Asia, Israeli officials were quick to mobilize and deliver some 90 tons of various supplies to Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Israel also quickly arrived on the scene with emergency assistance after Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans in 2005, following the powerful earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, as well as when earthquakes battered Japan and New Zealand in 2011. During the heavy torrential rains disaster in El Salvador last year, Israel provided public water purifiers, which ensured clean drinking water to the affected communities.
In March of this year, it was time once again for Israel to mobilize its resources in offering help to the Republic of the Congo after a military munitions depot accidentally exploded in a densely populated neighborhood of the capital of Brazzaville. Some 250 people were killed and thousands more were wounded in the Mpila district disaster, while tens of thousands of people were left homeless after their houses burned to the ground in the resulting inferno.
Several entire blocks of the city were razed to the ground in the urban wildfire.
Many of the wounded lost arms or legs as blast waves and shrapnel from the various types of exploding heavy artillery shells spread havoc across the area. The crisis worsened as infections, which could have been prevented by clean hospital conditions, led to additional deaths and amputations.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry was quick to send not only condolences, but also urgently needed medical assistance.
Through MASHAV, the government donated valuable medical equipment to help the shaken residents of Brazzaville.
The explosion had been so devastating, government officials urgently called on any Congolese abroad to do what they could to stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters back home.
Knowing the advanced technologies available in Israel and their expertise in the medical field, the Congolese Embassy in Israel heeded the call and also turned to a private Israeli company for additional assistance.
The company, SYS Technologies Life Saving Systems, was created by three Israelis specializing in emergency field operations and they did not hesitate to offer their services. Within days two of the explosion, SYS Technologies founders Yossi Zur and Dr. Shalom Zilbershmidt left for the Congo to assist in the stricken capital city.
Their efforts included donating two medically sterilized tents containing surgical units, called “Medi-T,” which were specially designed to reduce the risk of the spread of bacteria that can lead to life-threatening infections in warm and humid climates like in central Africa. The tent is constructed in a way that it easily can be set up and made operational in a matter of minutes when disaster strikes.
“The environment inside the tent is 100 times cleaner than in European hospitals. It’s totally clean,” Zur recently told The Christian Edition. “We donated two devices to the Congo, plus a computer which controls the pressure and the clean air within the tent allowing the user to know exactly how clean the environment is.”
Zur explained that the tent is used by several international organizations around the world, such as Caritas and Humanica, as well as the IDF, but that it was the first time that it was used in Africa.
“The idea behind our company is to save lives and all the devices that we are developing are strictly for this purpose.
Our Holy Scriptures tells us that if you save one human being it is like saving the whole world, and this is something that we believe in. A lot of people actually survived because of our equipment,” Zur assured.
Many lives were indeed saved thanks to the mobile surgical units, while several others could have been spared had the population had access to the tents even earlier. Zur learned of one lady who had a leg amputated due to an infection caused by the unsterilized environment in Brazzaville hospitals.
“If she had the right treatment four days earlier she would have been able to walk on her two legs today. It was only a question of four days that the infection grew inside of her body. This was the risk facing most of the population because of the lack of a clean environment.”
A German doctor related the story of another patient who refused to have his leg amputated, but two days later he started to feel very ill and asked the doctors to remove the leg. Yet the infection was already in an advanced stage and he died.
According to chief surgeon Dr. Gregoire Eboue, at the capital’s central army hospital where the two tents were initially set up, the medical personnel and patients were very satisfied with the units.
“The tents are extremely user friendly,” Eboue insisted. “One is able to use the tents everywhere, and with additional ones we would be able to perform operations in a healthy environment with sterilized conditions all across the country.”
The assistance from Israel was highly regarded by Congolese authorities, and during their time in the country Zur and Zilbershmidt had the opportunity to meet with the minister of defense, Charles Zacharie Bowao.
“We would like to thank you for this gift,” Bowao said. “The tragedy that struck our country on the fourth of March has left a lot of victims. Numerous people lost their lives and today we remember them with respect. You have given us excellent medical equipment and by transferring your expertise it will allow the medical personnel to immensely improve the health of the patients.”
Guy Nestor Itoua, chargé d’affaires of Congo’s embassy in Tel Aviv, also expressed gratitude for the Israeli aid.
“I would like to thank the government of Israel for the aid provided to the victims impacted by the explosion. The Congolese embassy would also like to show its gratitude towards SYS Technologies, who independently of the Israeli government came in order to assist the population of Brazzaville during last month’s accident,” stated Itoua.
He added that over 14,000 people have lost their homes as a result of the explosion, and are in temporary camps spread out across the capital until the government can provide them with permanent housing.
The Congolese government is still facing huge challenges and much work will be needed in order to heal the wounds, build new homes and recover from the national disaster. The contributions of the Medi-T tents are just one example of how Israeli inventions and humanitarian initiatives are helping save lives and build for the future in Africa.
Zur is looking forward to closer cooperation between SYS Technologies and the Congolese government, and noted that there are ongoing discussions that could lead to the sale of additional lifesaving devices suited for the developing world.
“This is more than business,” Zur concluded. “And it’s obvious that for us it is a mission to go to the Congo from time to time in order to train the medical teams so that they will be able to use the equipment perfectly in order to save lives.”