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Medical Teams Blog: Stories of boldly breaking barriers to health

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  • #BeBoldForChange: Women who are changing health around the world.

    by Emily Crowe | Mar 08, 2017

    March 8th is International Women's Day. Take a moment to read stories from some of the incredible women we've met who are working hard to bring better healthier & safer lives to their families and communities. Around the world, you are helping women get access to the tools, education and resources they need to change their health. Together, we're changing health around the world!


    Miriam, Syrian refugee in Lebanon

    Having witnessed unspeakable trauma, Mariam wants to help others. She's now one of 500 Refugee Outreach Volunteers trained by Medical Teams International to help sick and vulnerable refugees connect with primary health care clinics. Learn more about how she is helping to save and improve her fellow refugees' lives >>

    Jocelyne, Haiti

    Like too many women in rural Haiti, Jocelyne gave birth at home without the help of a trained birth attendant. After one child died in labor, the other's life was at risk from malnutrition. Find out how you gave Jocelyne the tools to protect her child and seek safer medical care in the future >>

    Sak, Cambodia

    After her daughter fell ill, Sak felt powerless. She had no idea why her daughter had become ill in the first place, and couldn't afford the care she needed if it happened again. Find out how you empowered Sak with tools that will keep her and her family safe for years to come >>

    Massa, Liberia

    Pregnant and mother of two, Massa had walked five hours to the clinic to receive an antenatal check up. Now a member of our Quality Improvement team, Massa has a vision of safer and better solutions for women like herself. Find out how women like Massa are changing health in Liberia >>


    Janet, Haiti

    Twice before storms toppled the small church in St. Jean. Twice before, she helped to rebuild it. Now 84, Janet, vowed she would re-build it again. Read about Janet and how she helped her community after Hurricane Matthew >>

  • Haiti: Amid tragedy, Jocelyne perseveres

    by Tyler Graf | Mar 06, 2017

    March 8th is International Women's Day. To celebrate, we're highlighting a few of the incredible women we've served and work alongside around the world. Thanks to your support, women - children, mothers, doctors, and more - have access to better healthcare. Thank you!


    Haiti, Jocelyne, 2016

    Jocelyne, 27, holds Sodberline, her surviving twin who almost succumbed to malnutrition.

    What should have been a joyous occasion turned to heartbreak for Jocelyne, a 27-year-old woman living in a village in rural Haiti.

    During childbirth in her community, Jocelyne struggled. Like many families in Haiti, instead of going to a hospital, she stayed close to home where there was no proper medical care. So when the first twin finally arrived, the room fell silent with a tragic discovery -- he was dead. Instead of smiles, there was shock. But Jocelyne had no time to mourn and gave birth to the second twin, a tiny girl.

    The days following the tragedy were hard on Jocelyne and her surviving baby, whom Jocelyne named Sodberline. As Jocelyne spiraled into sadness, the baby girl became sick. As the days passed, the baby's condition worsened.

    Before long, baby Sodberline weighed just 2.2 pounds, about the same as a quart of water. What was left of her umbilical cord, a nub extending from the base of her bellybutton, had become discolored and infected. She'd stopped eating altogether.

    It was in this condition that Medical Teams International discovered Jocelyne and Sodberline during a visit to their community. With the help of clinic staff, Jocelyne obtained antibiotics for Sodberline's infection. At the same time, clinic workers counseled Jocelyne on how to properly breastfeed the baby.

    In Haiti, stories like Jocelyne's are too common. The country's health system is insufficient to address mounting needs and has struggled to rebuild following the 2010 earthquake and 2016 hurricane. Mothers and infants are at risk. Seventy-four percent of all births go unattended by a medical professional in Haiti, leading to higher rates of infant and maternal mortality than elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Once born, children struggle to receive the nutrition they require to grow. Roughly half of the country's residents live in a food-insecure environment. Loving mothers like Jocelyne struggle to maintain their health and the health of their children.

    Your support brings direct care, counseling and support to communities where health resources are limited. In Haiti, Medical Teams is working to reduce the number of children who die from preventable illnesses and support safe motherhood practices.

    In Jocelyne and Sodberline's case, the benefits were evident after one month. In that time, Sobderline gained four and half pounds. During Medical Teams' last visit, Sodberline weighed a healthy 8.37 pounds and her umbilical cord had healed properly.

    Through unimaginable adversity, Jocelyne has the tools to keep herself and her baby healthy. Now, she's grateful she can be the mother she wanted to be -- one who can love and care for her healthy baby. She is reminded of this every day when she sees Sodberline's face. Your support made this possible.

  • Guest post: Today's word of the day is LOVE

    by Kellie & Jennie, Providence Health International | Mar 03, 2017

    Originally published by Providence Health International. This post comes from Kellie and Jennie, Providence Health volunteers who recently served with us in Guatemala. Read their heartfelt reflections from journeying into the rural communities. We're proud that Providence has been our long-time partner, providing resources and volunteers for the marginalized communities we serve.

    Join them on their journey and get to know some of the incredible people you're supporting:

    The word for today is LOVE.

    We arrived at the village and were treated to an hour-long opening ceremony of music, dance and speeches in Pokomchi and English. The children were curious, kind, well-behaved and most of all patient.


    LOVE is patient.

    We saw sisters caring for babies and boys playing with brothers, friends hugging each other. The line between family and neighbors is blurred, kindness runs deep. 

    LOVE is kind.

    We saw men paying it forward by helping their neighbors build a stove. And women caring for all the children. Sharing is a strong culture. We saw no jealousy or envy.

    LOVE is not jealous or boastful.

    We saw children and adults alike receiving gifts with grace. The men did not need us to help build the stoves but were not proud and let us participate.

    LOVE is not proud.

    We saw mothers stopping their chores to be gracious hosts, bringing tea or food to the workers. We saw children trying to return crayons after they had colored their picture. Politeness is more prevalent than rudeness.

    LOVE is not rude.

    We saw children calling to other children or running to get them when we handed out crayons, bubbles and stickers. Including others in an opportunity is their way of life, not hording or self-seeking. 

    LOVE is not self-seeking.

    We never saw anyone angry. When the toys ran out and if a child didn’t get one, they were resigned; but not angry.

    LOVE is not easily angered.

    We saw hope, happiness and endurance.

    LOVE hopes all things and endures all things.

    Faith, hope, love but the greatest is love.

  • World Faces Record Refugee Crises: What YOU Can DO to HELP

    by Martha Newsome | Mar 01, 2017


    The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, surpassing 65.5 million refugees worldwide - an unprecedented number. While the needs of Syrian refugees are widely publicized and receiving some desperately-needed support from organizations including Medical Teams International, the expanding crisis in South Sudan is underreported and underfunded. And while the news headlines in the U.S. are mainly focused on the small number of refugees coming into our country, the global problem is 1,300 times as great with “no room in the inn” and a price tag no one wants to pay.

    martha-with-refugeesLast month, I toured remote districts in Uganda hosting almost a million refugees from six nations.  Quietly and without fanfare or violence, an average of 3,500 refugees arrive at the Ugandan transit sites from South Sudan every day, and our Medical Teams International staff see every single one.Refugees – mostly women and children because many men stay behind to defend land or fight in the civil war – line up to wait for health screenings so they can receive a rudimentary supplies kit, be bussed to a barren plot of land to build a makeshift house, and begin their lives of waiting and wondering, hoping their homelands become safe enough to return, not knowing if or when that day may come.

    Today, just one month later, there are more than 1.5 million refugees who have fled South Sudan. This is the largest refugee crisis in Africa and the third largest in the world, after Syria and Afghanistan. One hundred thousand South Sudanese are on the brink of starving with famine now declared. Another five million need immediate food assistance. And there are indicators that things could get much worse as genocide in South Sudan is increasingly possible. 


    One young South Sudanese man haunts my memory. He traveled thousands of miles with his brother to our health center after he was shot. His thin body and hollow cheeks told a grim story of the pain he experienced. Our staff nurses and doctors treated his gunshot wound—ensuring his survival even as he faces an uncertain future in Uganda. 

    The truth is, the United States has taken in ONLY 0.001% of the worldwide refugee population, but the majority of refugees, like this young man, wait for peace to return home with no hope of emigrating anywhere. Prosperity is simply a fantasy for the refugees who wait hoping for just the basics: shelter, primary healthcare, food rations, and perhaps education so that this next generation of children might be able to create a viable future that their homelands desperately need.

    More people than ever before are suffering as the result of both natural and human-made disasters. When political actors fail to fix a broken world, it’s incumbent upon people who are compassionate to restore physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness. Countries like Uganda, Lebanon and Turkey are currently shouldering the brunt of the refugee crisis sweeping the globe – they are hosting millions – but we can also do  our part to help change the future for refugees right where they are now.  

    Overloaded yet uncomplaining staff from Medical Teams International, the United Nations refugee agency, the World Food Programme, and many other partners are working diligently to receive, process, and care for millions of refugees worldwide. The temporary health refugee-relief-how-you-can-helpcenters are teeming with people, and the pediatric wards are full of little ones. The bulk of the world’s refugees need help and want nothing more than to return to a safe home. While we can’t open our doors to these far off neighbors, we can be compelled by compassion and called to action to consider our role in restoring wholeness in a broken world – there is no time to waste and there is no better time.

    -Martha Holley Newsome

    Here are some tangible ways you can make a difference right now:

    1. Support UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.
    2. Support private organizations like Medical Teams International who are on the front lines in responding to refugees who flee their countries longing for a safe place to land. Donate now.
    3. Support government funding for refugees as a way to stabilize marginalized populations and prevent terrorism from taking root.
    4. Do your part to humanize the issue of refugees, remembering that they are ordinary people just like you and me who love their families desperately and want to live in peace.
    5. Call your congressperson to tell them you support ongoing state department funding for refugee families around the world.
  • South Sudan crisis: FAQ's & How you can help

    by Emily Sitler | Feb 22, 2017


    This week, the United Nations (UN) declared a famine in South Sudan. The formal announcement comes as people have already started dying of hunger and thousands are fleeing every day to escape starvation and violence. This severe food shortage is a result of a violent, ethnically-charged civil war that’s been ongoing since 2013. Learn more about the crisis and find out how you can make a difference.


    Q: When did the civil war begin?

    After South Sudan’s independence in 2011, deep ethnic divisions remained. An attempted coup in 2013 ignited a civil conflict between the government and oppositions forces. This fighting intensified in July 2016 after a peace deal between various groups collapsed. Civilians are caught in the middle of that fighting, leading to a surge in refugees fleeing violence to find security in neighboring countries, including Uganda.  

    Q: How does war lead to famine?

    Much of the fighting has centered around South Sudan’s agriculturally rich Equatoria region, where war is now sown instead of food. Due to disrupted farming and surging food prices, food insecurity and malnutrition have worsened since the conflict started three years ago – triggering widespread famine. This violence and hunger has resulted in 1.5 million refugee and asylum-seekers fleeing South Sudan to surrounding countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.

    Q: What exactly is a famine?

    A food security crisis becomes a famine when at least 20 percent of households face extreme food shortages. Thirty percent or more of the population must also face acute malnutrition, and the death rate must exceed two people per 10,000 per day.

    Q: How many people are affected in South Sudan?

    Almost 5 million people, more than 40 percent of the country's population, are in need of urgent help, UN agencies say. More than 100,000 people are already starving in parts of South Sudan. The UN fears another 1 million people are on the brink of starvation. More than 1.5 million victims have fled to neighboring countries for safety and relief.

    Q: How are aid groups helping victims in need?

    Due to the violence, it’s extremely difficult to reach the hardest-hit areas to make aid deliveries. Humanitarian aid in the region is already thinly stretched, but it could get even worse. With fewer domestic solutions, more and more victims are fleeing for relief in neighboring countries. Roughly 3,500 refugees per day cross Uganda's borders. Our teams provide health screenings, emergency medical treatment and referrals for refugees entering the nation. We also provide medical care for refugees living in settlements across the nation, including new camps that are being opened to meet the surging needs.

    Q: How is Medical Teams International responding?

    Roughly 3,500 refugees per day pour across Uganda’s borders, into cramped intake areas where Medical Teams International provides health screenings and referrals. Malnourishment, malaria and cholera are among the most common issues that we are treating. Of the 1.5 million South Sudanese refugees globally, Medical teams International works in the settlements serving 520,000 of these vulnerable people (and that number is rising as more flee South Sudan).

    Key Facts:

    • Over 1.5 million South Sudanese have fled to become refugees, escaping ethnically-charged violence and starvation.
    • Roughly 3,500 refugees per day cross into Uganda, seeking safety and relief.
    • Our teams are working in settlements that serve 520,000 refugees in Uganda, and we're rapidly expanding our work to meet the growing need.
    • More than 40% of the population of South Sudan are in need of help, UN sources say.

    With your help, our teams can help those in need:

    Famine and war in South Sudan is impacting millions. Your support is critical to help the thousands who are seeking relief in Uganda. How can you help?

    1. Spread the word by sharing the news on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.
    2. Make a donation to our refugee relief programs.
    3. Please pray for the victims affected by this disaster.