More than 30 children and adolescents from seven countries, the West Bank and Gaza are being treated near Tel Aviv for life-threatening heart disease, the largest group of patients brought to Israel in more than a year by a medical charity that said to have saved thousands of lives over the past quarter century.
The children range from 6 months to 19 years old and come from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Kosovo, Uganda and Zambia, as well as the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip, a said Tamar Shapira, Deputy Executive Director of Save a Child’s. Heart.
“It’s a big group of kids from a wide variety of countries. We haven’t had a group like this since COVID started, ”she said on Tuesday. “They all speak different languages, are different colors, but they are all treated by the Save a Child’s Heart team,” she said.
The patients, accompanied by a guardian, have all been brought to Israel in recent weeks, where they have been quarantined under Ministry of Health guidelines before receiving treatment at the Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital in Holon, which is part of Wolfson Medical Center.
According to Shapira, they all require open heart surgery or life-saving catheterization to treat a number of heart conditions. They are expected to stay in Israel for a total of two to three months before they can return home.
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“Israel was not only their only hope, but their last hope,” she said.
On Monday, Wolfson chief Anat Engel tweeted a photo of 27 of the patients and their guardians gathered, many holding national flags where they came from.
The group has treated more than 5,600 children from 62 countries since its inception in 1995, and has also screened and treated thousands of others on overseas missions. In 2019, Save a Child’s Heart treated a record 383 children, mainly from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zanzibar and the PA.
Starting in 2020, pandemic-related restrictions put restrictions on international travel, and Israel imposed strict limits on entry into the country. The group still managed to treat 349 children, although the vast majority are Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, with 54 others from Ethiopia and Tanzania and 41 from Romania.
While Israel has opened up most aspects of daily life, strict guidelines remain in place for those seeking to enter the country, including a quarantine requirement for those who have not been vaccinated and a ban on visitors. from some countries deemed to be high risk.
On Tuesday, Israel began to back down to a pandemic situation with an increase in cases blamed on the Delta variant of the coronavirus, reintroducing a mask warrant at the airport and strengthening the enforcement of quarantine rules, among other measures.
Shapira said Save a Child’s Heart had always followed government guidelines closely even when the pandemic appeared to have been canceled, and would continue to do so.
“We hope to be able to continue these activities,” she said. “We are very, very happy to be able to save these children and send them home. “