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Israeli doctors provide surgery for African children

Two Israeli surgeons from Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center recently returned from Ghana, where they operated on children with facial deformities.

Omri Emodi, a craniofacial specialist, and Zach Sharony, a plastic surgeon, went to Ghana as a part of a mission arranged by the American humanitarian organization, Operation Smile. Emodi and Sharony are veterans of such missions having operated on children in Vietnam, the Philippines and Ethiopia as well.

Operation Smile is a Virginia-based NGO that aims to raise awareness of, and treat patients suffering with cleft lips and palates worldwide. As of 2013 it has provided  more than 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults.

In Ghana most of Emodi and Sharony’s surgeries included correcting cleft lips and palates. Working with an international team of surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists, the Israeli doctors completed 155 operations in eight days.

“It takes only less than one hour to carry out the operation,” Emodi told the Times of Israel. “Once you get into the rhythm, everyone becomes one team, motivated by the desire to help these people.”

The ages of the patients ranged from infant to elderly, and the people came to the makeshift surgery center in Ho from all over the country.

“If a child has a facial deformity, it can affect eating, drinking, speaking and, of course, his or her own self-image,” Emodi said explaining how the life of a child can be changed by the surgery. “You walk with a sign on you, especially in Africa. You could easily be an outcast.”

Emodi considered it a joy to be able to help in this way.

“It is like a gift from God,” he said.

Karen Faulkner
Karen Faulkner is a British Israeli citizen. She has a Master's degree in Human Rights & Transitional Justice from Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

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