TWO Israeli doctors have returned from Ghana after putting smiles on dozens of children’s faces. Literally.
Omri Emodi and Zach Sharony went on a humanitarian mission to operate on children with facial deformities, many of whom had never been able to smile.
They completed 23 operations in just eight days, on cleft lips and palates, along with other more complex surgeries on facial deformities.
Emodi is an expert on face injuries and deformities at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, and Sharony is one of Rambam’s plastic surgeons.
They worked non-stop in makeshift surgery rooms in the city of Ho, alongside surgeons and medical staff from 12 countries, assembled by the US-based charity Operation Smile.
The Israeli expertise was in high demand in Ghana, a country where doctors are in very short supply.
Emodi said: “In Ghana there are only 20 qualified surgeons for a population of 20 million people who can perform these operations.”
Their patients in Ghana – some of whom travelled 500 miles to see them – received treatment for free, as have their patients on past missions to Vietnam, Ethiopia, the Philippines and elsewhere.
“These facial deformities have a huge impact on people’s lives,” Emodi told The AJN. “It’s a social barrier and people find it hard to get work.
The impact in Africa and Asia of a deformity is larger than in the West, because people go around with it until they are older, and because the stigma is more, the stigma is stronger.”
He said that his Jewish identity is a central factor pushing him to this kind of humanitarian mission.
“I come from a family in Holland where many people died during the Holocaust, so to me helping people who are suffering and changing lives is especially important,” he commented.
“These are operations of 45 to 60 minutes, a short flight away from Israel, but they change people’s lives entirely.”