Health Scan: ZAKA men teach Arab women first aid

The rescue and evacuation organization launches a course for Arab women on home safety, accident prevention and after-care.

Zaka volunteers Uman 311 (photo credit: Courtesy ZAKA)
Zaka volunteers Uman 311
(photo credit: Courtesy ZAKA)
For the first time, the rescue and evacuation organization ZAKA has launched a course for Arab women on home safety, accident prevention and after-care. Born out of the experience of volunteers arriving at homes in minority communities, the course not only addresses accident prevention, but also provides post-accident care. This is the first time that ZAKA, which was established by haredi volunteers, has initiated a project geared specifically toward women in the Arab sector.
A few dozen Arab women attended the four-hour course, in the Arab town of Kafr Kasim, that was led by a ZAKA medical professional and an Arabic-speaking paramedic.
The Arab sector has a very high rate of home accidents, but members of the community lack the skills and knowledge on how to act in the critical moments before an ambulance arrives at the scene. In the past, there have been unfortunate incidents in which paramedics arrive to find that inadequate care was given by a concerned parents, only to make matters worse. The course teaches first aid care for cases such as choking and fainting.
The organizers hope to expand the program to 12 other Arab towns. ZAKA has an active minorities’ unit of Arab, Beduin and Druse men giving first aid on a volunteer basis mostly in the Negev, Galilee and the Triangle area; an additional course is opening soon.
ZAKA chairman and founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav said the organization offers aid and assistance to all, regardless of religion, race or creed. ZAKA not only works for the benefit of all, both in Israel and overseas, but also brings together volunteers from all sectors of Israeli society: religious and secular, Jew and Arab, Druse and Christian.
Oxytocin, a natural hormone connected to feelings of love, has been shown in studies on women’s postpartum depression to help protect children from the negative effects of maternal depression. The Bar Ilan University study, presented at a recent meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, showed that children born to depressed mothers are at greater risk of mental disorders but that this risk can be lessened depending on genetic factors related to oxytocin functioning.
Prof. Ruth Feldman found children exposed to maternal depression throughout their first year had a higher risk of mental disorders by age six. Sixty percent of children born to mothers who were consistently depressed across the first year of the children’s lives exhibited mental disorders. This group of children, similar to their mothers, also showed disordered functioning of the oxytocin system, demonstrated by both lower levels of the hormone in their saliva and a high risk variant on the oxytocin receptor. In comparison, 15% of children born to mothers with no mental disorder were diagnosed with a mental disorder by age six.
Researchers studied the mental health status, oxytocin levels, genetic variation in the receptors and interactions in 155 mother-child pairs during an at-home visit when the child was six years old. Each mother was checked for mental health symptoms at the time of her child’s birth and at six and nine months after birth. The 155 pairs were initially observed and diagnosed with any mental disorders the a nine-month home visit.
Of the pairs participating at the six-year home visit, 30% of mothers were diagnosed with depression and had demonstrated symptoms of depression throughout the child’s first year of life. On average, these mothers had disordered oxytocin functioning and produced less peripheral oxytocin in their saliva.
Among these mothers there was a greater prevalence of the risky variant of the oxytocin receptor gene.
While most children born to depressed mothers exhibited mental disorders, 40% demonstrated more normal functioning of the oxytocin system, no signs of mental illness, better social engagements and empathic behaviors. “We found Oxytocin system functioning helps safeguard some children against the effects of chronic maternal depression,” said Feldman.
An Ethiopian orphan who suffered a congenital heart defect and was saved by the Israeli-based international humanitarian project Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) came to Israel to save others like him. Yared Warde, who underwent heart surgery at the age of 12, was an orphan living on the streets of Addis Ababa scrounging for food. A doctor referred him to the SACH program based at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, where he underwent the lifesaving operation.
Today, at 25, he is director of the Ethiopian capital’s Saint Yared School, which fights poverty by educating the city’s poorest and unprivileged children. Two years ago, Warde met a very ill young orphan named Tamru, who was brought to the hospital in Addis from his orphanage in north Ethiopia because he desperately needed life-saving heart surgery.
Warde immediately approached SACH for help.
It took a few weeks until Tamru was well enough to fly to Israel to undergo open-heart surgery. During those weeks Warde personally took care of the child, and when Tamru returned to Ethiopia after his successful surgery, Yared took him into his home so the child could receive the necessary follow-up care.
Warde recently turned down a full paid scholarship to a US university for a master’s degree because he believed it is more important that he remain in Ethiopia, run the school and give as many indigent children as possible the chance for a future through education. Warde is married and has a newborn baby girl named Anna Ami, who is named for the late SACH founder Dr. Ami Cohen. Cohen was the surgeon who operated on Yared and saved his life. During his recent visit at SACH, Warde met children from Ethiopia, Angola, Zanzibar, Uganda, Moldova, the Palestinian Authority and Iraq who were all brought to Israel to undergo surgery. He told them about his experience and encouraged them to be strong; Warde also met with the doctors who treated him when he was in Israel 13 years ago.