Abigail Klein Leichman

“IsraAID’s Emergency Response Team is deploying to Papua New Guinea following last week’s devastating landslide,” the Israeli humanitarian aid group announced on May 30.

IsraAID has brought emergency and long-term assistance to more than 60 countries since 2001. For the first time, it turned inward following the October 7 Hamas attacks, aiding Israelis in crisis while maintaining long-term operations in 11 other countries including Uganda, Colombia and South Sudan.

But the deadly and destructive May 24 landslide in Papua New Guinea prompted the nonprofit organization to take on a new overseas emergency mission.

“We’re devastated by the scale of the destruction for this remote community in Papua New Guinea – as many as 2,000 people feared buried under the rubble, and over 1,600 displaced, in a community of only 5,000,” said IsraAID’s Senior Director of Emergencies and Operations Michal Bar.

Five experts in emergency aid; water, sanitation and hygiene; and mental health left Israel on June 1 to assess needs and devise a response plan in cooperation with local partners.

IsraAID sends team to Papua; SmartAID heads to Brazil
Four of IsraAID’s five-person emergency response team on the way to Papua, New Guinea, June 1, 2024. Photo courtesy of IsraAID

“This is our first new emergency response since we launched our emergency response in Israel in October,” IsraAID CEO Yotam Polizer tells ISRAEL21c.

“While we continue responding to the crisis at home and supporting displaced communities in Israel, we are proud to be dispatching an emergency response team to this devastating landslide in Papua New Guinea.”

IsraAID hasn’t worked previously in Papua New Guinea, though the organization has been aiding nearby Vanuatu since 2015, following Cyclone Pam. Both nations are located in Oceana near Australia.

IsraAID launched a strategic office in Australia earlier this year to deepen its ties with nations in the region.

“In Vanuatu, IsraAID has been supporting water, sanitation and hygiene, mental health needs, and gender-based violence response and prevention, alongside supporting the communities’ resilience in the face of ongoing climate disasters,” said Polizer.

IsraAID sends team to Papua; SmartAID heads to Brazil
Assessing the water, sanitation and hygiene situation with communities affected by the devastating landslide in Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024. Photo courtesy of IsraAID

Meanwhile, Israeli humanitarian aid organization SmartAID sent members of its Australian team to Papua to meet with the government and determined that its help is not needed, says Shachar Zahavi, who cofounded SmartAID in 2019 to provide technological emergency aid to countries in crisis.

However, Zahavi tells ISRAEL21c, SmartAID has sent a team to respond to what he calls “a huger catastrophe” in Brazil, where torrential rain and flood have affected 2.3 million Brazilians, killed 172 people, and displaced about 600,000 citizens.

SmartAID, too, continues to assist Israel and some 40 other countries such as Rwanda and Ukraine, as well as collaborating with international and local partners and the Israeli government’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) agency to streamline aid delivery to Gazan civilians.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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