Marking its first joint Israeli-American medical specialist mission, Israeli humanitarian aid organization IsraAID arranged for a delegation of American pediatricians to join IsraAID’s ongoing medical program in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.

According to IsraAID, Kakuma is one of the world’s oldest and largest refugee camps and is chronically understaffed. Kakuma houses more than 185,000 refugees from countries across the region, including South Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in addition to a host community from the Turkana ethnic group. Nearly 60 percent of Kakuma’s refugee population is under the age of 18.

The mission participants, led by Dr. Michelle Sandberg and Dr. Sabrina Braham from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, landed on May 16 and were greeted by Israeli peers in the camp’s two hospitals and six clinics operated by the International Rescue Committee and Kakuma Mission Hospital. The US doctors also will train Kakuma’s medical staff.

“Major health issues affecting Kakuma’s residents vary, and have recently included malaria, lung infections, tuberculosis, HIV, malnutrition and cholera,” said IsraAID in a press statement. “By providing up-to-date training in pediatrics, the visiting physicians can make a real difference to the long-term prospects of Kakuma’s children.”

Sandberg, who previously visited Kenya to provide specialist training in Nairobi, said it will be challenging to work in an area with limited resources.
“It will also be hard to bear witness to so much suffering, but I hope to have an impact by increasing awareness of the refugee problem in this part of the world and the important work IsraAID is doing,” she said.

The mission is supported by the Koret Foundation.

IsraAID launched its activities in Kakuma in 2011, working to support the psychological, water and medical needs of refugee and host communities. Programs include two Child Resource Centers, each providing a safe space, recreational activities and safe water for over 150 refugee children per day, water technician training for unemployed young people and specialist medical support for Kakuma’s hospitals and clinics.

Since 2001, IsraAID medical teams, search-and-rescue units, post-trauma experts, community specialists and other professionals have responded to emergencies and disasters in 46 countries. The organization also runs long-term aid programs in 16 countries.