Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • Uganda Refugees: Working to Rebuild Lives

    by Tyler Graf | Jun 19, 2015

    Uganda, big group of refugees
    A group of refugee children in Uganda.

    An unprecedented number of people – nearly 60 million – currently live as refugees, driven from their homes by persecution, conflict or poverty. Most are clustered in encampments in the Middle East and Africa, places that lack the necessary resources for such a massive influx of haven-seekers.

    As World Refugee Day approaches on June 20, we're reflecting on and praying for the lives of the world’s most vulnerable, who, for various reasons, cannot return to their homes. In settlements in Lebanon and Uganda, Medical Teams International provides care to thousands of refugees.

    The work is a reminder: Behind the grim number, there are individuals — each one valuable, all with dreams and aspirations.

    David Alula is MTI’s director of operations in Uganda and has worked alongside refugees for more than a decade. The growing number of refugees places a strain on settlements and the communities that surround them, he says.

    “It is a serious crisis,” Alula said. “It’s impossible to plan for all the refugees.”

    That was the case earlier in the month, when fighting in the African nation of Burundi resulted in thousands of people spilling into bordering countries. MTI is currently assisting roughly 8,200 Burundi refugees in southern Uganda, in addition to refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

    Uganda is one of the nations at the center of the refugee crisis, despite being on weak footing itself. The country is now home to more than 400,000 refugees, most coming from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

    The top needs among the refugees are health care, food and sanitation, Alula said. It's easy to see oneself in the refugees, he added. In a growing number of countries it's becoming more common to become one. He is reflective, saying, "one day they are refugees, next day maybe me."

    "Some of these are high-class people used to living in nice houses," Alula added. "They are used to having jobs. Now they have to start life under a tree. The best food they can eat is beans and porridge, which are not even in good condition."
    The stories the refugees tell are harrowing, Alula said. They literally have nothing. Many have been abused.

    "When you see it," he said, "that's when you want to cry."

    What keeps him going are the stories of success and the knowledge that he makes a difference.

    He recounted the story of a woman who became a refugee after she was attacked and raped and left for dead. Foreign doctors provided aid and transported her to a large hospital, where she was able to recuperate. When she came to the settlement, she received care and regained her strength and mental stability.

    Eventually, she immigrated to the United States, where she currently lives. Because of the support and awareness of the international community, this woman's life improved. 

    MTI strives to make the lives of refugees stable again by controlling communicable diseases, providing psychological services and dispensing medicine. Even with the rising tide, help will remain and, with your help, grow.

    Want to be a part of the movement? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, sign up to receive emails, and check out our refugee page to discover more, including how to donate.

  • Bringing Relief to a Syrian Refugee Mother

    by Emily Crowe | Jun 16, 2015

    Five minutes.

    That’s how long it took the bombs to strike Moamar’s farm and turn everything—her home, her livelihood—into a pile of rubble.

    After the bombing, Moamar, a suburban mother in Syria, escaped with her four children into Lebanon. Homeless and terrified, she hoped to protect her family by seeking support and protection in a refugee camp.


    Soon, she learned what was happening to those she left behind in Syria: Her father was killed when he went to the bakery for a loaf of bread; Her cousin, who was like a brother to her, was kidnapped, imprisoned, and killed.

    As the war continued, Moamar lost all contact with the rest of her family in Syria. She is heartbroken that she never got to say goodbye to her dad.

    While she and her children escaped the fighting in Syria, they struggled in the poor camp conditions. For Moamar, lack of healthcare was the biggest challenge at the camp.

    After borrowing $2500 to pay for emergency care for her son, she was deep in debt. Four months pregnant, she dreaded the birth of her child. How could she afford to care for yet another child? Or have the energy to help her family survive?

    Soon, this stress began to take its toll.

    Daily activities became harder and harder, and she began battling symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and low energy. Already struggling to take care of her family, these new health problems made life even harder.

    Responding to the needs of the thousands of Syrian refugees like Moamar, Medical Teams International arrived at Moamar’s camp. Our team discovered she was suffering from low-blood pressure and quickly gave her treatment and health education. Already, she feels a difference.

    While the clinic could not bring back Moamar’s home or promise her an easy future, she is grateful that there is someone at the camp to take care of her. She is also thrilled to have more energy and be better able to care for her children.

    Your prayers, donations, and support extend a loving embrace to a vulnerable, struggling mother in Lebanon. Life as a Syrian refugee will continue to be difficult for Moamar, but we are grateful that we can provide important relief during her time of need.

    Want to bring relief to more vulnerable families like Moamar's? Donate to bring desperately-needed medical care to refugees. Pray that families and children will be protected. Share her story Facebook and Twitter, sign up to receive emails, and learn more about MTI's work with refugees.
  • Liberia Success Story: Keeping Faith Alive

    by Tyler Graf | Jun 10, 2015

    Faith with grandmother 2
    Baby Faith, who's 2 years old, with her grandmother in Liberia.

    Faith’s life has been a struggle from the start. The girl’s mother abandoned her in Liberia when the baby was only a few weeks old.

    If Faith didn’t have her grandmother in her life, she wouldn't have anyone at all. Grandma raised the toddler, who is now 2-years-old, and there’s clearly a lot of love between the two.

    But grandma is only one woman.

    The support system that many people rely on simply hasn’t existed for Faith. So when the toddler became sick with an unknown disease, there was no place to go for help. It just so happened that Faith had become desperately ill during the height of Liberia’s Ebola epidemic, a time when all illnesses were viewed as a potential public-health threat. Health workers were reluctant to treat patients who might have Ebola – even babies like Faith.

    Health workers initially showed little interest in Faith’s condition. They didn’t ask enough questions to know how to treat the baby girl. The only thing doctors knew about Faith’s condition was that the girl’s skin was feeling intermittently hot and cold. An MTI “rapid response” team was called to assess Faith’s condition out of concern that she might have Ebola. Her symptoms were similar.

    That’s when Faith’s condition worsened. Her skin broke out in a rash, and her eyes turned red. She came down with a fever, and she had trouble swallowing. There was a painful sore inside her throat.

    When MTI’s rapid response team assessed the young girl, they concluded that she either had measles or Ebola. The prognosis was frightening. Both illnesses are deadly. Ebola in particular was on everyone’s mind. It’s the scourge that has killed more than 4,800 people in Liberia alone. But because of your gifts, MTI’s rapid response team was on the ground to transport Faith to a clinic, where she was monitored for several days and tested.

    Faith tested for measles or Ebola
    Faith is tested to make sure she doesn't have Ebola.

    There was a minor sense of relief when the tests came back negative for Ebola. She had measles instead. Thanks to the quick intervention of the clinic’s staff and the rapid response team, Faith’s condition improved. She is now free of measles and is happy and healthy.

    Faith is an accurately named little girl. She started with nothing, became sick during the worst Ebola pandemic ever, but nonetheless survived with a smile. Your support, donations and prayers made the difference. Thank you for making a positive impact in this girl’s life and, in doing so, keeping the Faith. 

  • MTI Support: Silverton Students raise $20,000

    by Tyler Graf | Jun 08, 2015

    Silverton HS donates $20,000 check

    The spirit of philanthropy is alive and well at Silverton High School, in Oregon's Willamette Valley.

    Students raised a whopping $20,231.67 this spring for Medical Teams International through it's Mr. Silverton High School pageant. The annual event pits eight seniors against each other in revue-style showcase of talents. Behinds the scenes, the boys worked to raise money for MTI by finding sponsors and donors, in addition to selling tickets. It was a massive — and, from what we hear, massively fun — undertaking.

    MTI is a regular recipient of SHS students' hard work and generosity dating back more than a decade. In the early 2000s, Silverton High School's student leaders toured the Real. Life. Exhibit and were so moved by what they saw that they started raising money for MTI. In the early years it was through an event called Hoops for Hope. In recent years it's been the Mr. Silverton High School Pageant.

    This year's donation was the most ever raised by SHS students. Next year's pageant organizers will undoubtedly have their hands full topping this year's total, but we're sure they're up to the challenge. A heartfelt thank you to Silverton High School, its compassionate students and all those who donated. They're making a difference in the lives of people affected by disaster, conflict and poverty.

  • Lebanon Story: Badra's Broken Heart

    by Tyler Graf | Jun 05, 2015

    Badra, Lebanon, refugee, April 2015

    Three years ago, Badra fled Syria for Lebanon with her damaged heart in tow.

    Despite her medical condition, she had to leave her home country. She would have died otherwise. War was breaking out all around her, and people were dying. The dead included two of her nephews who were killed by snipers.

    She and her family found their way to Lebanon, where they live a very modest lifestyle. It was in Lebanon where her medical condition worsened. Her heart was giving out. A year and a half ago she had heart bypass surgery, but it failed. Doctors had to perform open heart surgery to fix it. She has a scar running down her sternum as a reminder of the operation.

    Badra's chest scar, Lebanon, refugees, April 2015
    Badra reveals the scar left from her heart surgery.

    Badra’s damaged heart weakened a once-strong and independent woman, a matriarch of five daughters and 30 grand kids. While she required regular medical attention, it was expensive or otherwise difficult to obtain in Lebanon. Early on, nongovernmental organizations refused to help Badra because she did not live in one of the refugee settlements.

    Bad news like that is a part of daily life as a Syrian refugee living in Lebanon. But then, one day, good news arrived.

    Badra heard that Medical Teams International was coming to a nearby settlement. She thought the health workers there could help with her diabetes and hypertension. At MTI’s mobile clinic, doctors tested Badra’s blood sugar and took her blood pressure. They also supplied her with medicine to keep her ailments in check.

    Badra's condition has improved, thanks to your gifts, support and prayers. Because of you donations, Badra can go to the MTI clinic every month when it comes to the nearby settlement. Badra said she believes she is now receiving proper care, adding that MTI is "providing the right medications.”

    Thank you for making a difference in this woman's life, and in the lives of countless other Syrian refugees. To contribute to the efforts, donate today.