By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency
New York — August 29, 2017 … From Haiti and South Sudan to Japan and Kenya, IsraAid has been among the first to be on the scene when disaster strikes.
Today, a team of 10 IsraAid professionals are about to arrive in Texas. These non-governmental volunteers will set foot in Houston to assist with disaster management and provide mental health and engineering expertise. They will focus on coordination of relief work and provide basic needs including stress relief activities and recreation for those impacted by the disaster.
“The biggest challenge is always coordination in situations like these,” said IsraAID co-director Navonel Glick.
Glick said the IsraAID team will work with state authorities and aid groups including those of the Jewish Federation in Houston as well as others connected to Jewish communities in the area, he said.
— United Hatzalah (@UnitedHatzalah) August 30, 2017
“People need help on the ground. They need to be able to wrap their minds around what was lost and they need assistance figuring out how to cope and where to go from here,” said Dov Maisel, Director of International Operations for the IRC and Vice President of United Hatzalah. “That is the biggest challenge currently facing all Houston residents who have suffered during Hurricane Harvey.”
In order to help people impacted psychologically by the hurricane, the IRC is utilizing the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit of United Hatzalah, a volunteer-based emergency medical services organization based in Jerusalem with branches around the world.
The hurricane turned tropical storm has ravaged the Texas coastline since Friday and has claimed at least 11 deaths. The National Weather Service and Emergency management services predict the situation will only get worse in the hours ahead as several more inches of rain is expected from Houston to New Orleans.
“The US Coast Guard is continuing to receive upwards of 1,000 calls per hour,” Coast Guard Lt. Mike Hart said on Monday. The Coast Guard rescued more than 3,000 people on Monday, he said.
Over 9,000 Hurricane Harvey survivors are being housed at the Houston Convention Center.
Houston officials will not ask for immigration status or documentation from anyone at any shelter, according to tweets in English and Spanish from the city’s verified account.
In Dallas, state and local officials operating with the Red Cross are preparing to open a mega-shelter at its downtown convention center. Authorities aim to open the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Tuesday morning.
“In crises with large-scale destruction, national and international aid efforts typically focus on practical, physical support, with limited resources allocated to the mental and emotional rehabilitation of affected populations,” said Yotam Polizer, co-CEO of IsraAID.
“For the most vulnerable groups, notably children and the elderly, time is of critical importance; the longer these groups are forced to remain in shelters, the higher the chance of long-term mental health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder that can have a debilitating and long-term impact.”