Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • On the frontlines, treating Rohingya refugees.

    by Stefanie Glinski | Oct 09, 2017

    Hassan was one of the first patients to arrive at Kutupalong camp’s only diarrhea clinic. Clutching on to his mother’s arm, the three-year-old slipped in and out of consciousness, sweat dripping from his little exhausted body.

    An ethnic Rohingya, Hassan recently came to Bangladesh, fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar. More than half a million refugees arrived alongside him in recent weeks, making it the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Many witnessed their houses being burned to the ground and family members shot.

    A medical volunteer treats a child in the refugee settlement in Bangladesh.

    Conditions in the camp are dire and a large-scale cholera outbreak is feared. Most of the new arrivals live in simple housing, made from bamboo sticks and plastic sheets that have been donated to them. They wade barefoot through thick mud; in areas where open defecation is practiced, this is a breeding ground for the water-borne cholera.  

    But with over 4,790 confirmed cases of diarrhea, there is so far only one management center for the disease, operated by Medical Teams International.

    Fact: One child dies every minute from diarrhea. With the proper resources, these illnesses are preventable and treatable.

    Hassan had been sick for a few days, his parents said, initially afraid to seek medical help. Their son is now being treated at Medical Teams' in-patient unit.

    “The development of epidemics such as measles and cholera in refugee camps is our biggest fear. Acute diarrhea is a leading cause of death in children under five years old,” says Bruce Murray, a Medical Teams International doctor.

    “We are particularly concerned with the potential development of cholera. That’s why we scaled up quickly: we need the facilities for when it occurs, and we want to be in the frontlines of responding to this dangerous epidemic,” he added.

    Muddy conditions in the settlement greatly increase the risk of outbreaks.

    Medical Teams International’s diarrhea management center is located in the heart of the Rohingya refugee camp, staffed with doctors and nurses ready to treat a potential outbreak.

    The facilities were a simple storehouse just a few days ago, but the international team has turned it into a fully operational in-patient center, with freshly painted floors, walls and ceiling fans.

    “We all worked together to set this up in just two days and we are already seeing patients. The turn-around has been quick, but it had to be. The facilities are important and life-saving,” explains Nurse Theresa Durkin. She arrived in Bangladesh as a volunteer only a few days ago and is already training local medical staff at the center. While some patients arrive for a quick treatment and dose of rehydration salts, others, like Hassan, are admitted to the in-patient unit, requiring longer-term specialized care.

    Outside the clinic, Kutupalong camp is hustling and bustling. Between the already existing houses, new arrivals have set up their tents, waiting to officially register in the camps. Most people have arrived solely with the clothes on their bodies. They often wait in line for hours to receive food distributions for their families.

    “There is a lot of need here. I’m glad we’re on the ground to respond."

    “I came here less than a month ago,” says Mehda, a young mother, holding her son Mohammed on her lap. “My house was burned and I lost my husband. I came here feeling desperate and sad. I know that living here will be very difficult, but I am glad I am receiving help, I don’t know how I would survive otherwise,” she added. Playing with her little son, she says that she was referred to the diarrhea management center by health workers in the community.  

    “In a sudden-onset response like this, we often work together with partners on the ground. In our case, we have partnered both with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), as well as with a local non-profit who helps provide doctors and nurses on the ground,” explains Medical Team International’s Team Leader Dominic Bowen.

    “We also have community health workers in the camps, referring new patients to us,” he adds.

    Kutupalong camp is still growing. The government of Bangladesh has just donated more land to expand the existing camp.

    “There is a lot of need here. I’m glad we’re on the ground to respond,” Murray says.
  • Needs, Access, and Resources: Why We’re Helping the Rohingya and Puerto Rico

    by Martha Holley Newsome | Sep 27, 2017

    The past month has unleashed what seems to be a startling increase in natural and manmade disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and violence. Bringing healing to people in crisis is core to who we are as an organization. It compels us to act, and to prayerfully consider where Medical Teams can help most – where the health needs are greatest, where we can gain access to those in need, and where we have the resources to respond.

    Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

    When back-to-back hurricanes slammed our neighbors in the south, we were deeply moved by the passion of our dedicated supporters, who reached out eager to help send vital hygiene supplies to evacuees.


    Faithful volunteers pack Hygiene Kits after Hurricane Harvey.

    In just a few short days we were able to package 2,000 hygiene kits to send to people displaced by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. We also partnered with an organization on the ground to meet health and hygiene needs in Florida and Georgia after Hurricane Irma. Thank you for coming alongside us to provide comfort and care to our neighbors across the country.

    Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico

    Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in mid-September, leaving the island ravaged and without power. As resources are rapidly becoming depleted, and people struggle to find basic necessities, there is a request for aid from the mainland U.S. To help our neighbors through this time of crisis, we are providing medical and health supplies as well as hygiene kits to those in need through a trusted partner.

    Mexico Earthquakes

    Two earthquakes in Mexico destroyed buildings and claimed many lives. In this case, we evaluated the opportunity to respond using our standard criteria: need, access, and resources. While the needs are great, there are already many governmental and non-governmental organizations deeply involved in responding, including in the health sector. We determined that our resources, therefore, would be put to better use elsewhere, in a crisis where health needs are overwhelming the local capacity to respond.

    Rohingya Refugee Crisis

    In less than a month, the displacement of Rohingya people from Myanmar has quickly risen to become an urgent humanitarian crisis. In informal settlements, some 400,000 refugees lack clean water, sanitation, and shelter, making it likely that disease could spread and threaten thousands of lives. 

    The needs are massive and immediate, and they are not being adequately met by governments or humanitarian players. Working in close coordination with the United Nations (UN) and with partners on the ground, we’ve determined that Medical Teams can have a significant impact in helping save lives in the midst of the Rohingya crisis.

    Our hearts are deeply grieved by the images we’ve seen and the stories we’ve heard coming out of Bangladesh. Our Humanitarian Response team has been on the ground in Cox’s Bazar--where most of the Rohingya refugees have fled--for over a week. Our initial efforts will center on providing direct health care and preventing disease outbreaks. We will also serve as a vital link between the critically ill and their access to urgent care—helping refer patients who need extra care to nearby healthcare facilities.

    Please join us in praying for all those around the world who are suffering in the midst of disaster. And pray especially for the displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh—that they receive the care and comfort they need in the aftermath of tragedy.

    You can help bring healing to the Rohingya - please consider supporting our work in Bangladesh.
  • Helping families after Hurricane Harvey

    by Emily Crowe | Sep 08, 2017

    The destruction and flooding left in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas has impacted tens of thousands. “I think all of us can imagine what it would be like for us to lose our home, to be stuck in a shelter,” shared Martha Newsome, President and CEO of Medical Teams International.


    Volunteers pack supplies into Hygiene Kits for families affected by Hurricane Harvey.

    As Texas moves beyond the rescue phase, Medical Teams is responding in the recovery phase, as the needs of evacuees increase. We are working with partners on the ground to distribute Hygiene Kits—stocked with things like soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, washcloths, and more—to give dignity and comfort to families who have lost everything.

    Buying products in bulk and working with local volunteers to pack the Hygiene Kits keeps costs low. At $7 each to purchase and ship a Hygiene Kit for a family, it’s an easy way to have a big impact.

    We are dedicated to respond to disasters and help meet the urgent health needs of people impacted by crisis. We are thankful to have partners around the world who enable us to reach difficult places with vital care and supplies. We are also thankful for our local volunteers who share their time to pack and ship medical supplies—from Hygiene Kits for hurricane victims to surgical tools for hospitals in Syria.

    Our prayers are with those who lost homes and whose communities were destroyed by Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.

    As the US braces for more hurricanes, we remain ready to respond to meet urgent needs.

  • Special note of thanks from a grateful patient

    by Emily Crowe | Aug 30, 2017
    “It had been 48 years since I had seen a dentist… These wonderful people are making life for those of us with less resources so much better. I am amazed, I am grateful. Thank You!”

    Our Mobile Dental Clinics travel the Pacific Northwest, providing free dental care for families, homeless, veterans, and anyone unable access care. Our dedicated volunteer dental professionals make sure patients receive the high-quality, compassionate care they deserve.

    We had to share this note from someone who lives at Council House, a nonprofit that provides low-income housing to seniors. They are so grateful for the loving care they received:


  • Helping the Vulnerable in our Own Communities

    by Charlotte Falconer | Aug 23, 2017

    For some, dental care is an expensive luxury. Unable to pay for care, they might endure dental pain for months or even years, hoping the pain will resolve itself or eventually treatment will become affordable. If ignored, dental problems can lead to chronic pain, difficulty eating, speech problems, and severe and debilitating health conditions.

    mobile-dental-patient-van-Although a large part of our work is abroad, local health needs--like dental care--are also incredibly important to us. When dental issues arise, Mobile Dental Clinics provide people in the Pacific Northwest with a safe, free, and welcoming place where their urgent dental needs are met.

    Our Mobile Dental Clinic vans travel to urban centers, schools, shelters, and rural areas to bring free dental care to local veterans, homeless, immigrants, low-income families, and anyone else needing affordable care. We met Sophin during a Mobile Dental Clinic in Southeast Portland. An immigrant from Thailand, Sophin spent years working to become a permanent resident. When he came to America, he expected a better life with better chances. This became true in many ways, but he still can’t afford medical or dental care.

    At the Mobile Dental Clinic, Sophin was able to get a filling to fix his broken tooth. Without the care that he received, he would have been left in pain with very few places to turn for help. He expressed that he really appreciates what the volunteers do and is glad that they were able to help him. Sophin shared that he also volunteers--he spends his free time volunteering locally with Meals on Wheels.

    Through the support of people like you, we are able to get vital dental care to the families and children who need it the most.

    Thanks for helping us care for and share the love of Christ with our neighbors like Sophin.