Dr. Shmuel Levartovsky, Head of the Ophthalmology Department at Barzilai Medical Center, joined the delegation consisting on 4 Ophthalmologists. The delegation was organized by "Ein Zion" Organization, MDA, MASHAV (International Cooperation Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and JDC.
The delegation went to Burma for two weeks and took care of problems such as: adults and children cataracts, squint, eyelid surgeries and occlusions of lacrimal ducts. The Israel team performed approximately 300 surgeries together with local doctors.
Dr. Levartovsky tells:
Burma is a country of 55 million people with 129 Ophthalmologists (in Israel there are approximately 700 Ophthalmologists).
"The relations between Israel and Burma are still remembered for the best since the times of Ben-Gurion when Burma's first Prime-Minister U Nu visited Israel in 1955 and Ben-Gurion paid Burma a reciprocal visit.
As for today the government in Burma is a military regime. In 1990, the opposition leader won democratic election but since then she is under house arrest. As a result, the U.S and Europe triggered severe economic sanctions against Burma, sanctions that are well noticed everywhere, like irregular electricity supply that disturb the order of daily life".
"The delegation worked in two areas. During the first week the delegation operated in the southern delta region at Pianpon and during the second week at the second largest city in Burma, Mandalay.
We were welcomed by the Minister of Health, the Military Governor, the Minister of Tourism and hundreds of patients who were arranged in queues with manual megaphone. Treatments began with preliminary survey tests and approximately 300 were accordingly selected. Operating theatre with 3 surgical beds was working non-stop without interruption until the evening hours and sometimes until late hour, while changing time between surgeries was only several minutes. Surgeries were conducted under difficult conditions such as 900(F), high humidity and frequent power outages that have interrupted the activity of medical instruments and air-conditioning. The work required high levels of improvisation, like using pots for boiling and sterilization of surgical tools, using hand lamps and a pile of chairs to sit at the patient's level.
"The Journey to Burma was the strongest experience I have ever experienced in my professional life. The ability to work under difficult conditions, with local doctors and to light the eyes of the Burmese feels superb".
For the article in local paper click the link below