A team of medical experts from Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer is preparing for an emergency deployment to the Pacific island nation of Samoa following an urgent request from the World Health Organization (WHO) for humanitarian aid. Samoa is currently facing a deadly measles outbreak that is killing those who have not been vaccinated, especially young children and pregnant women.


More than 4,000 people have been diagnosed with the measles so far, with hundreds more contracting the disease almost every day since the outbreak. Over 60 people have died during the outbreak, most of them infants and young children. The sheer number of patients requiring high dependency and intensive care treatment, including ventilation, has overwhelmed the capacity of the local hospital wards and staff.

In response to this medical crisis, a team of experts from Sheba Medical Center’s dedicated humanitarian unit, the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response, are mobilizing to quickly provide much-needed relief. The team, which is leaving this weekend plans to stay for approximately two weeks, will be composed of six nurses and two pediatric specialists.

The Sheba medical team to Samoa will be led by Dr. Itai Pessach, the head of Sheba’s Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital and Assaf Luttinger, RN, who is the Deputy Director of the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response.

Measles in Samoa: 65 deaths reported to date, Vaccination coverage up to 89%

“In this particular mission, we will not need to deploy our field hospital or need to bring measles inoculations to Samoa. Because the Samoan healthcare system has been simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases, we have been asked to bring hands and heads to the affected areas,” said Director of the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response Prof. Bar-On. “Once our team lands in the capital city of Apia on Monday, our team will be deployed to those locations where we can be of the most assistance and help save lives.”

Prof. Bar-On founded the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response at Sheba Medical Center in 2017 and is available for interviews on this current Samoa mission. Teams from the Center, consisting of experienced doctors, nurses, allied professionals and specialists, has traveled around the globe – to ZambiaPapua New GuineaMozambique and beyond – to assist in emergency medical situations. Humanitarian aid has been a part of Sheba Medical Center’s mission since its founding in 1948.