Blog Home

Medical Teams Blog: Stories of boldly breaking barriers to health

Sign up to receive the blog directly to your email inbox

  • Happy Mother's Day! One mother's story of health.

    by Emily Crowe | May 13, 2017

    This Mother's Day, we want to honor the incredible women we serve alongside to make better health a reality. Experience shows that if you provide something for a mother - medicine, training - she almost always uses it to help her family. Here's just one mother's story that shows the lasting impact of healthcare access:

    In Guatemala, Medical Teams-trained Mother Counselors started working with Marta three years ago when she was pregnant with her first child. Marta took this training to heart.


    This training gave Marta the tools she needed to keep her family - and herself - healthy. And, she's already put it into action.

    When her daughter, Britany, was young, she struggled with constant diarrhea and was losing weight. Because of her training, Marta knew her daughter needed rehydration salts quickly to avoid serious complications like dehydration and even death. Following up with regular health monitoring appointments allowed Marta to track her daughter's weight and make sure she was getting proper nutrition. Because of this, Marta's children are some of the healthiest in the community.

    Marta says, “I am so thankful for the Mother Counselors and I am grateful that Medical Teams provides the training to the Mother Counselors so I have the knowledge on how to raise healthy children.” Marta said she learned how to take care of her kids, how to properly wash dishes and clothing and has learned safer hygiene practices.

  • A New Role in an Uncertain World

    by Sarah Austria | May 08, 2017

    Like many homes, Noufa’s has the warm smells of cooking spices. A stove sits in the middle of the home, and the room is warmly decorated with wall hangings. Unlike many homes, though, Noufa’s isn’t a house - it’s a tent. Noufa and her family are refugees in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

    Regular bombings forced Noufa and her family to flee their home in Syria. Despite losing so much - her home, her education, and a secure future - Noufa spends her free time serving as a Refugee Outreach Volunteer in the settlement. Now, she has the knowledge to provide healthcare for her fellow refugees.  

    In Syria, her father was a taxi driver and the family lived with her grandparents. They were very poor, but she was still able to attend school. Noufa, unmarried and the oldest in her family, lives with her parents and seven siblings in an informal refugee settlement.

    The family fled their home in Raqqa, Syria after the regular bombings became too much to endure. In Syria, Noufa was only a year from graduating high school. More than two years later, Noufa still longs for an education.  

    Now in Lebanon, none of the siblings attend school. They tried, but it was too expensive. They’ve lost everything. Like Noufa’s family, many Syrian refugees in Lebanon have little or no financial resources. Around 70% live below the poverty line. According to the United Nations Refugee organization, only 22% of refugee adolescents (vs. 84% of adolescents world-wide) receive a secondary education.

    Instead of attending school, Noufa works in the fields during the summer and in a grocery store during the winter. When it rains, water pours into their tent. And, when the water tanks in the settlement are empty, she must walk two kilometers to fill water bottles for her family.

    Her situation can be discouraging - but she’s found a bright spot. While not the traditional education she sought, she is still able to learn. “In Syria, I hoped that I could continue my education,” she shared, “but that wasn’t possible. I volunteer with MTI to learn more.”  When she’s not working, Noufa serves as a Refugee Outreach Volunteer with Medical Teams International.  As part of her volunteer responsibilities, she is trained to measure blood pressure, blood sugar, and follow-up with patients with non-communicable diseases. This allows our clinics to have much greater impact, reaching more and more refugees in need.

    Noufa’s volunteer involvement has given her a practical education that she put to use immediately. Her training is an obvious benefit to the patients she cares for,  but it’s also invaluable to Noufa.

    In a place with few educational opportunities, Noufa’s training has given her a critical role in her uncertain world.

    Thanks to you, Medical Teams International has trained over 500 Refugee Outreach Volunteers in 100 informal refugee settlements in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.  Volunteers are a critical component to the health of thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

  • Medical shipment arrives in Syria!

    by Emily Crowe | Apr 28, 2017

    Great news: Our shipment of urgently-needed medical supplies just made its way to Syria! We're partnering with the International Blue Crescent to provide support for war-torn regions. So far, we've been able to send nearly $1 million of medicines and health products to health facilities in some of the worst-hit regions in Syria.

    Check out photos from one of our deliveries in Syria:



    Our goal is to keep sending regular shipments into Syria. With your help, and the partnership of the International Blue Crescent, each delivery will provide $1 million worth of urgently-needed medical supplies!

    On a recent visit to the only post-operative hospital for Syrians in Turkey, our Humanitarian Advisor Dominic Bowen was able to meet with survivors of conflict in Syria. Nearly all of the survivors he met had suffered life-altering injuries. 

    As the war rages on in Syria, 40% of health facilities are reporting limited health services because there's no sustainable source of supplies. Our goal is to keep sending regular shipments into Syria. With your help, and the partnership of the International Blue Crescent, each delivery will provide $1 million worth of urgently-needed medical supplies!

  • Afaf: Daughter, aspiring teacher, Syrian refugee

    by Tyler Graf | Apr 27, 2017

    Get a personal look into the refugee crisis - follow our blog to see what being refugees has meant for one Syrian refugee family. We provide medical care at their settlement in Lebanon.

    Afaf still dreams about becoming a math teacher one day, even though she's now six years behind in school and spends her days working in nearby fields for $4 per day.

    Afaf was nine years old when her family fled Syria. She hoped to become a math teacher, a dream her parents worked hard to encourage and make possible. Her father, Adeen, wants nothing more than for his daughters to receive an education and pursue careers. The war put an end to that. Afaf hasn’t been back to school since.

    One of the main reasons her family decided to relocate was because of the rise in sexual violence against young women. Afaf understands why her family had to flee, but life in the camp is hard. Without many friends or school, she is often lonely. Because she is so young, she remembers little of Syria.

    She works the farm fields with her older sister, but the work does little to pass the time or inspire her.

    Her only friends are the children who reside in the neighboring tents. Although it's better than being in danger in war-torn Syria, it's nothing like the lives they left. There is little to do in the settlements except watch TV. The days slip away. When it's rainy season, the camp becomes flooded and their thin tent walls do little to protect them from the elements.

    “If the war hadn’t come, I would have gotten an education by now at least. But instead, I am working in the field for $4 a day," she shared.

    Despite being six years behind in school, Afaf holds onto the hope of going back, and maybe one day becoming a math teacher. 

  • Fistula: Four women whose lives have been changed forever.

    by Emily Crowe | Apr 25, 2017

    Last summer, Medical Teams International volunteers Pat Reser, Jeanine Ward, Pam King and Deb Hirsh traveled to Southwest Uganda where they met brave and resilient women recovering from obstetric fistulas - a heartbreaking childbirth injury that outcasts too many women around the world.


    The women they met – Joyce, Rosa, Patience and Beatrice – suffered their injuries after laboring alone for days without help from trained birth attendants. Without treatment, these women’s injuries made it impossible for them to control the flow of urine or stools from their bodies. They were rejected by their husbands, families and communities because their conditions caused a foul odor - and they were believed to be cursed. What's more - this preventable condition can be cured by a simple surgery.

    This situation is not rare. More than 1,000,000 women in sub-Sahara Africa are suffering from obstetric fistulas. Like modern-day lepers, they are outcast and abandoned by their families and neighbors.

    Thankfully, you're making change: Medical Teams International is working to prevent the condition in Uganda by providing maternal health education and access to pre-natal care, along with trained birth attendants. Women who are suffering from this condition are being referred for surgeries and receiving the help they need for healing and wholeness.

    On behalf of all of the women who's lives you are impacting in such an important way: Thank you.