Israeli NGO IsraAID was the first foreign humanitarian aid organisation on the ground to help survivors after being dispatched on Sunday. IsraAID’s team of 20 volunteers have built temporary shelters for hundreds of families left homeless, distributed food and other items, as well as providing grief counselling to families that lost relatives in the disaster. IsraAID has also provided counselling to the Italian rescue teams, suffering from burnout and acute stress. Additionally Israeli officials have also offered to send search and rescue recovery teams from the military, however Italy has yet to take up this offer.
The 6.2 magnitude earthquake levelled towns in Italy’s mountainous centre, with the areas of Amatrice and Accumoli being most affected. Approximately 290 people were killed, with some 400 people reported injured and around 2,500 people sheltered in temporary camps after their homes were destroyed. Continuous aftershocks in the region have hampered search and rescue efforts, and have made it more difficult for survivors to return to their homes.
IsraAID’s dedicated team of professional trauma therapists have assisted families affected by the earthquake throughout the process, from the identification of bodies to decisions about burial and funeral arrangements. Silvana Winer – born in Rome and immigrated to Israel at age 20 – has helped on the ground in helping those most traumatised providing psycho-social support and grief counselling.
IsraAID team member Mickey Noam Alon described how his team helped Gabriele Gabiza, an 82-year-old man from the town of Scai whose house was destroyed. Alon said “When I met him, he was clearly exhausted, shocked and confused. He was straddling slowly with his walking stick unsure of where to go… Immediately an IsraAID team member helped him to find a place to sit, offered him a warm blanket and some water”.
Since its founding in 2001, IsraAID’s teams of professional medics, search and rescue squads, post-trauma experts and community mobilisers, have attended and provided assistance to almost every major humanitarian response in the 21st century.
IsraAID is an umbrella organisation for Israeli and Jewish groups offering humanitarian aid in disaster-struck areas. It has sent teams to locations around the world, including Sri Lanka, Peru, Nepal, South Sudan, the Philippines and Haiti.
A number of Israeli volunteers, sent by IsraAID, arrived in Britain in January 2016 to help repair homes and distribute food and blankets in the north of England following Storm Desmond, which caused flash flooding.