Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Sheba has stood on the frontlines in the fight against the pandemic, conducting breakthrough studies to develop new, effective vaccines and treatments, as well as innovative medical models of care.
Driven by our commitment to ‘Hope Without Boundaries,’ and despite the many internal challenges facing Israel due to the pandemic, Sheba endeavored to share its knowledge and assist colleagues worldwide in implementing practices and models that have been proven effective against COVID-19, dispatching teams of experts across the globe.
Following is a short recap of Sheba’s COVID-19 international aid efforts, spearheaded by its Humanitarian & Disaster Response Center (HDRC).
Supporting Italy’s fight against COVID-19
During the pandemic’s second wave, Italy was one of the countries worst hit by COVID-19. Local hospitals were overwhelmed, and the governor of the Piemonte region approached the Israeli ambassador to Italy for aid. In response, Israel called upon Sheba to organize an aid mission.
Immediately responding to the call, Sheba’s HDRC deployed a team of 25 physicians and nurses headed by Prof. Elhanan Bar-On, HDRC Director, with expertise in emergency medicine, pulmonology, and intensive care. The team worked shoulder to shoulder with local counterparts, helping with day-to-day tasks as well as sharing knowledge and expertise.
Speaking on the mission, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General, Alon Ushpitz, remarked:
“Israel and Italy are allies that hold a deep connection and collaborate on many issues, so it’s only natural for Israel to help Italy in its time of need.”
Medical Aid Delegation to COVID-19 stricken Uruguay
In the first half of 2021, the COVID-19 mutation first discovered in Brazil was known to be particularly contagious, and spread across South America – especially to Uruguay and Peru. At that time, an average of 2,000-4,000 new COVID-19 infections were diagnosed in Uruguay every day.
In April 2021, after the Uruguay Ministry of Health sought assistance dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, the local Jewish community, together with the respective embassies in Uruguay and Israel, approached Sheba Medical Center. In response, a Sheba advisory team was immediately dispatched, along with a COVID-19 aid package. The team worked in several institutions throughout the country, assessing needs and advising on the optimal way to deal with the situation based on the immense knowledge accumulated in Sheba since the beginning of the outbreak.
Humanitarian aid in fire-ravaged Lesbos
The Greek Island of Lesbos sheltered the largest refugee camp in Europe, housing 13,000 refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, and Africa. Sadly, at the climax of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lesbos refugee camp went up in flames, leaving many homeless – a problem exacerbated by the increasing number of COVID-19 infections.
Following the disaster, the World Health Organization (WHO) reached out for assistance, and several international medical teams were deployed. Given his extensive experience, Prof. Bar-On, Director of Sheba’s HDRC, was asked by the WHO to coordinate these teams and liaison aid efforts with the Greek Ministry of Health.
Mass casualty events, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises worldwide necessitate expert management and immediate response to minimize human suffering. As Sheba’s Associate Director General Prof. Arnon Afek put it:
“It is our mission to lend a helping hand to any nation in need of medical assistance.”