Dialysis diplomacy

Radio station mogul David Ben-Basat helps orchestrate donation of medical equipment to Sierra Leone.

IsraAid 311 (photo credit: Alex Libak)
IsraAid 311
(photo credit: Alex Libak)
An Israeli radio station owner helped oversee the delivery of four new dialysis machines donated by the Israeli government and private Israeli donors to Sierra Leone last month.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Monday shortly after arriving back in Israel from the cash-strapped and war-torn west African nation, David Ben-Basat spoke of how he believes the new medical hardware should help the west African country, where he said health services are sorely beneath the standard of Israel.
“Their health services are very, very weak and I believe that a donation like this can help them and also help encourage better diplomatic relations between Sierra Leone and Israel,” said the owner of Radio 100 FM, Russian-language radio Pervoye 89.1 FM and leading Mizrachi music channel “Radio Lev Hamedina.”
He added that each machine also required the donation of water purifying systems, medicine and a great deal of training for the teams who will operate them.
During a visit to the country last year, Ben-Basat said that the first lady of Sierra Leone, Sia Nyama Koroma, told him that her country is lacking the medical machines, and that he then seized on the opportunity to do a little dialysis diplomacy between the State of Israel and the African nation.
Altogether Ben-Basat said he was able to oversee the delivery of four dialysis systems to Sierra Leone, two of which were supplied by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Ben-Basat said he was able to raise the money for the other two from private donors.
Ben-Basat, who has also served as the chairman of the Regional Radio Association for the past 12 years, also described how he became the honorary consul of Sierra Leone in Israel following a short trip to visit a friend and Israeli businessman living in the country in January 2011.
During the visit, Ben-Basat was a guest at a meeting with his friend and the foreign minister and vice president of Sierra Leone, as well as the president of the West African country, Ernest Bai Koroma.
“We made a connection,” Ben-Basat said, and before long, like a good radio promoter, he was able to convince the Sierra Leone leaders that he would be the perfect go-between for Jerusalem and Freetown.
Ben-Basat said his diplomatic responsibilities mainly consist of arranging visas for Israelis looking to visit Sierra Leone. He also works as the honorary consul of the tiny Micronesian country of Nauru, but it is clear from speaking to him that his work with Sierra Leone holds a special place in his heart.
“They very much love Israel in Sierra Leone,” Ben-Basat said, adding that there will be an official state visit by the Sierra Leone president in June, which he said was a first.
Last week a group of doctors from Sierra Leone returned home after spending over a month at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba learning how to operate the machines.
This week, a group of Israeli doctors made their way to Sierra Leone as well, where they will help oversee the operations of the machines at Connaught Hospital in Freetown.
According to Ben-Basat, the machines have already helped save the life of 10-year-old girl suffering from kidney failure.
“They were very excited by everything. They wrote about it in the local papers, the local TV, all printed about it in the local papers, all of the government came together to see it,” Ben- Basat said, adding, somewhat immodestly, that he is confident he has single-handedly improved Israel-Sierra Leone relations.