Israel Center for Disaster Medicine & Humanitarian Response Team Tends to Volcanic Burn Victims in Guatemala 

By Steve Walz 


An elite medical team of consisting plastic surgeons, burn specialists, and nurses from Sheba Medical Center’s Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response has flown to the Central American nation of Guatemala, to tend to the growing number of people who have been victimized by the eruption of the Fuego volcano. 

The medical team, sprang into action after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received an urgent call for assistance from Guatemalan President, Jimmy Morales Cabrera. Members of the Sheba Medical Center team include: 

  • Prof. Elhanan Bar-On, Director, Israel Center for Disaster Medicine & Humanitarian Response 
  • Prof. Josef Haik, Director, the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Director of the Burn Center 
  • Dr. Gregory Trodler, Senior Anesthesiologist in the Burn Center 
  • Dr. Moti Harats, Plastic Surgeon, Burn Center 
  • Nurse Aviva Yona, Burn Center 

The Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response at Sheba Medical Center was established in 2017 by Professor Elhanan Bar-On to lead the charge in preparing and responding to global humanitarian crises and emergencies. During the past few months, the team has thwarted a deadly cholera outbreak in Zambia and also tended to hundreds of patients with various maladies in Papua New Guinea. 

The contingent, which included medical doctors and support personnel from other Israeli hospitals, assembled quickly and flew 24 hours straight to Guatemala City, where they were greeted by Israeli Ambassador Moti Cohen and Guatemalan Ministry of Health officials. Without a moment to waste, they traveled to several local hospitals, where they have been treating dozens of victims-men, women and children of all ages- many of whom are suffering from severe burns across their bodies and in the lungs (volcanic ash inhalation). 

A significant number of these victims also lost family members during the violent eruption last week. According to the Guatemalan media, the damage, loss of life, and numbers of injured people caught the government by surprise, as the volcano continues to rumble and spew ash and lava. The Sheba medical team and their colleagues are working around the clock to deal with the growing calamity.  

Professor Bar-On revealed, “We were able in a short period of time to assemble a top medical team from Sheba and other hospitals with the support of the Israeli Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the local health authorities in Guatemala, who welcomed us with open arms upon our arrival. We are endeavoring to use all of the professional tools at our disposal to treat the victims of this disaster.” 

Professor Haik added, “The horrific scenes of devastation that greeted us, motivated the team to treat the severely injured victims. Some of them lost their entire family in the aftermath of the eruption. We have heard and seen the horrors. We are hopeful that the advanced medical technologies and medicine we have brought from Israel will enable us to treat and heal these innocent victims, many of whom are suffering from various types of burns.” 


Photo Credit: Sheba Medical Center