New Israeli aid group assisting fire victims in Australia….and victims of natural disasters the world over
By Abigail Klein Leichman
A team of nine Israeli and two Australian volunteers with SmartAID were among the first to enter Australia’s Kangaroo Island to help locals affected by ongoing wildfires.
“The wildfires which hit Kangaroo Island looks like a scene from an apocalypse movie. The team drives through the fire trail in Kangaroo Island, with burned trees, some still on fire. The earth is black and smoke fills the air,” reported SmartAID Global Goodwill Ambassador Alethea Gold.
The SmartAID team is working alongside the Australian army, firefighters and local nonprofit partner BlazeAid to clear the rubble of burned homes, help open access routes and assist farmers in rebuilding their livelihood.
“We are here shoulder to shoulder helping our Australian friends who lost everything to the fire,” said Gold.
SmartAID, formerly called iAID, has been operating quietly for the past three years since it was cofounded by Shachar Zahavi. He previously founded and headed global humanitarian aid organization IsraAID.
We reported on iAID assistance following natural disasters in Mexico, Texas, and Peru, often alongside other Israeli humanitarian aid groups.
The international not-for-profit aid agency has been renamed SmartAID to reflect its unique focus on “harnessing the power of innovation and technology to save lives, alleviate suffering and empower communities.”
Based in Israel, SmartAID has branch offices in Australia and United States, and soon in Europe.
“In the humanitarian aid field today, there’s a slow shift from traditional forms of aid to more technological and innovative solutions,” Zahavi tells ISRAEL21c, explaining why as a serial social entrepreneur he took the lead in forming SmartAID.
“International aid organizations are slowly entering this tech scene with food, clean water, clean energy, agtech and fintech solutions. Our idea is that the ‘startup nation’ is the obvious place from which to offer Israeli and Jewish knowhow from Israel and globally. The added value we bring is innovation in disaster settings and long-term programs.”
This is accomplished in collaboration with entrepreneurs, startups, manufacturers, impact investors, local governments, donors and academics.
SmartAID brings in low and high-tech solutions adapted to local needs in cooperation with local partners, Zahavi explains.
“It could be anything from solar panels to water storage,” he says. “In the Bahamas we partnered with a local group, HeadKnowles, and established a coordination center where we put in telecommunications infrastructure to help aid agencies working across the island after Hurricane Dorian.”
SmartAID also brought clean water solutions, hygiene packs and solar lights from Little Sun to people displaced by Dorian.
In Mozambique, following a March cyclone that also brought IsraAID to help victims, SmartAID worked with local partners including MiracleMissions to deliver solar lights from a South African company.
Main Photo: SmartAID volunteers from Israel and Australia are working on Kangaroo Island with local partner BlazeAid.
Israeli NGO rushes to provide relief after Puerto Rico quake
Israeli NGO IsraAID has sent a relief team to assess needs in Puerto Rico after a deadly 6.4 magnitude quake hit the Caribbean island on Tuesday, Jan. 7.
The quake, which killed one and flattened buildings in the southern part of the island, was the latest in a series of 100 or so tremors that have hit Puerto Rico over the last 10 days and show no signs of stopping.
It was strongest quake to hit the island since 1918 and has caused widespread damage to a nation still recovering from Hurricane Maria in 2017.
IsraAID, which has been operating on the island since Maria, launched its initial needs assessment on Jan. 7, and then travelled to the affected area on Jan. 8 to determine first response activities.
The team conducted a rapid, on-the-ground needs assessment, focusing on distributing relief items, providing psychological first aid, and organizing safe water and sanitation solutions for the affected population.
The extent of the damage in Puerto Rico was still unclear at press tiome, but one third of the island’s population – over one million people – were left without access to basic services including electricity and water, and an estimated 300 are homeless. A state of emergency is now in effect.
A team from IsraAID arrived in Puerto Rico in September 2017, the first few days after Hurricane Maria barrelled through the US state killing some 3,000 people; and they have remained on the island ever since.
ISRAEL21c flew to Puerto Rico to see IsraAID’s long-term recovery work in action. We visited a school in San Juan where IsraAID was working with the community to increase disaster resiliency, and also visiting El Real, a remote community in the mountains where IsraAID helped build a water filtration system that doesn’t rely on electricity.