Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • One year after disaster: Nepal

    by Emily Crowe | Apr 25, 2016
    • 5,233 hygiene kits distributed to pregnant, lactating women, families with children under five years old, and other at-risk families
    • 20 distribution centers established
    • 51 Community Health Volunteers trained in five communities
    • 6,765 community members trained at 21 hygiene education sessions

    On April 25th, 2015 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal- affecting more than five million people. Thousands of families lost their homes, and more than 30,000 were left dead or injured.

    It's now been one year since the disaster. How did your support help save lives during the disaster, and what are we doing now to make the country safer? Find out.

    It's now been a year... what's changed since then?

    The earthquake left more than 700 health facilities completely or partially destroyed, and many safe water sources were lost. This left thousands vulnerable- pregnant women with little to no access to medical care, children unable to properly wash their hands after going to the bathroom, and families with no safe access to clean water. Together, these can spell major disaster for months or years after the initial quake.

    Thanks to you, we've been able to do more than just react to the immediate disaster- helping thousands who were left vulnerable. We've worked hard over the past year to improve the health system- focusing on protecting the children and mothers who were at greatest risk. Your support has helped local facilities, clinics and communities provide better care, creating more safe, reliable places for mothers and their children to receive care. You provided hygiene kits to "at-risk" people, including nursing or pregnant mothers, children, at-risk families. Your support is still on the ground, implementing a better healthcare system that will help so many.

    Meet Badu, 82-year old earthquake survivor

    Badu_Nepal_earthquake_disaster_helpBadu is one woman who was injured in the quake. She'd lived in her rural home for most of her life. An 82-year old subsistence farmer, she was hit by a falling piece of rubble from a nearby building before she could reach safety. Thankfully, your support had sent a volunteer to the remote health clinic near Badu's home-- here, our volunteer wrapped and splinted her broken foot, allowing her to heal safely and avoid further injury.

    "You could hear them moaning from underneath the mud."

    Her entire village was destroyed in the earthquake, and at least seven people were killed. One of her neighbors said, "You could hear them moaning from underneath the mud, 'help us, help us.'" Although Badu's foot was broken by the collapsing building, she was grateful it wasn't worse. And, thanks to you, she was able to receive quick, safe treatment - avoiding suffering for months or even years to come.

    Stronger for years to come

    It was because of your quick action that our teams were some of the first on the ground, providing medical supplies, emergency relief and assessing damage caused by the earthquake.

    And, now, it's because of your continued support that we're able to help Nepal become stronger and more prepared- helping lives for generations to come.

    Your support continues to improve and impact lives of families in Nepal. On behalf of those families, thank you! Want to make sure we can keep these families safe? Donate and send impactful support to communities in need around the world, and spread the word: share this impact story on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

  • Syrian Refugee Crisis, Part 2: Waiting in fear, losing hope

    by Emily Crowe | Apr 23, 2016

    WALID'S STORY - PART 2: This story is straight from the field - One of our team members met Walid and his family, Syrian refugees, in Greece. This is part two of their story- check out Part 1 here.

    Walid's wife and their youngest child, Muhammad, share a heartwarming moment in Greece. Fighting near their home forced them to flee, and they're enduring heartbreaking, dangerous conditions to find safety for their family.

    A dangerous game of chance

    On the day they were finally able to attempt crossing the Aegean Sea, water the group departed from the flat at five o'clock in the morning. Again, all 50 in the group were crammed in a small cargo truck. The group was again on top of one another and though it was freezing cold outside, Walid remembers the extreme heat of being in the truck and desperate for air to breathe. He remembers at one point having to remove all the clothing from his youngest child because he was burning hot.

    After half an hour of driving, it felt like they could no longer breathe and the group began knocking and pounding for the driver to stop and give them fresh air to breathe. Finally he stopped and opened the door for five minutes and did so repeatedly along the trip as they begged for it again and again.

    Finally the group reached Cesme, Turkey, around 7 p.m. The group was instructed to get prepared to leave in a boat and wait for their driver. The man who was supposed to drive them told them he was going to check for police and make sure the area was clear. They waited for him until 7am and eventually realized he would not be returning to help them get across. The group couldn’t wait any longer or they would certainly be caught.

    The dinghy boat should carry only 10 people—they crowded 50.

    The driver never came back to get them across so they had to choose someone from their group [none of them had experience]... The motor on the dinghy was very weak so they had to move slowly. After two hours they had still not reached the Greek border because they weren’t going fast enough.

    Then, water began seeping into their boat, and the group panicked realizing their boat was damaged… If the police did not arrive soon, they realized their boat would sink. Thankfully, however, the police came immediately… Walid remembers that volunteers brought them food and clothing right away. The next day the UN had arrived and they were given documents to keep track of everyone in the family.

    Waiting in fear, losing hope

    From Lesvos, the family of eight journeyed to the main land and up to the Macedonia border. They waited for a month by the Macedonia border. Walid recalls that it was very difficult and very cold. Heavy rain poured and the water would get inside the tents. There was no way for them to keep it out.

    After a month of waiting near Macedonia, they lost hope that the border would open. From there he shared his feeling at the time: "And then what will happen next I don't know."

    Walid holds up his son Muhammad to show the skin damage that has developed on his face that over the past two months. The doctor gave them cream to apply but it has not gone away.

    At this point, he shares that he and Reem will go anywhere that would give them stability for their family and the ability to live peacefully. Being a metalworker, Walid hopes that this will help him find work wherever they end up.

    In the short term view, he shares that they no longer feel hope they once did. “I don’t expect much from people,” he says, “but somehow, I hope God will work things out for us.”

    Thank you for walking alongside families like Walid's. The refugee crisis has left so many families vulnerable and suffering. Your support provides a warm, safe embrace for families who have lost so much. Please consider donating to provide relief for vulnerable families in need around the world, and advocate for them by sharing this story on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Please keep their family in your prayers.

  • Syrian Refugee Crisis, Part 1: A Personal Look

    by Emily Crowe | Apr 21, 2016

    WALID'S STORY - PART 1: This story is straight from the field - One of our team members, Carmen, met Walid and his family, Syrian refugees, in Greece. This is part one of their story- check out Part Two here.

    Walid's wife and their youngest child, Muhammad, share a heartwarming moment in Greece. Fighting near their home forced them to flee, and they're enduring heartbreaking, dangerous conditions to find safety for their family.

    When will the bombing end?

    Walid remembers when he and his family lived “fine and peacefully” in Aleppo, the city they called home in Syria. As a metalworker, he was never unable to provide for his family.

    When the first of the fighting began, they felt the dangers of living in the country—yet somehow a sense of safety and stability remained. Quickly, Walid and his wife Reem could see that the explosions and violence [were] growing more and more erratic. He remembers hearing the news that spread in the city when 20-30 civilians were killed in Aleppo as a result of the violence… For one month they did not leave home because of the fear of getting hurt, or even killed.

    The violence only continued to grow more intense. There was fighting day and night—all happening about four kilometers from their home.

    …With tears filling his eyes, he [Walid] said he was terrified the rebels would come to their house and rape or kill his wife and daughters. At that point, he knew there was no other option - they must take the risk and leave Aleppo in order to keep everyone safe. Walid and Reem decided they must all flee and escape to Europe.

    A dangerous, necessary decision

    The family, he shares, are all here at the site together.

    It cost them 300 Euros each just to get to the Turkish-Syrian border via the city of Azez. Then, two months ago, it was very cold when they were trying to cross. If someone did not invite them to sleep in their car for the night, they would end up sleeping on the streets.

    On the fourth day of their journey the family reached Turkey. Because of the poor sleeping conditions, the travel had already become very taxing on Walid and his family, especially the children.

    For a few nights they stayed in a cow stable hiding. If they got caught, they risked being sent back to Syria. Hiding in the stable cost them 200 Euros each for the few days they were there.

    Most of Walid’s family lost their shoes and other clothing on the journey as they ventured through heavy rains and muddy ground.

    In order to get everyone to the next city on their journey, they were all stuffed in a small cargo truck with people stacked on each other.

    By the time they reached the next point on the trip, they were all put in a garage, divided in to groups based on their destination. The smuggler had them leave the garage bit by bit so the police didn't see where they were going.

    Read Part Two: Waiting in fear, losing hope >>

    Thank you for walking alongside families like Walid's. The refugee crisis has left so many families vulnerable and suffering. Your support provides a warm, safe embrace for families who have lost so much. Please consider donating to provide relief for vulnerable families in need around the world, and advocate for them by sharing this story on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Please keep their family in your prayers.

  • Zika Virus: Volunteer Update

    by Katie Carroll | Apr 18, 2016

    A statement to our international volunteers:

    We are glad you are considering (or already scheduled – as the case may be) joining with us in important work of Medical Teams International in the field.

    The health and safety of our team members is always of vital importance and concern to us and we take sharing pertinent information regarding both of these things seriously. To that end, we want to alert you to continued developments in the CDC’s recommendations regarding the Zika Virus. We have included the link below for your convenience. In response, and for the safety of our volunteers, we are implementing the following measures for volunteers for projects in the affected countries:

    • Because the CDC has confirmed that the Zika virus is the cause of microcephaly (birth defect in babies), we are requiring women who are pregnant to postpone their travel until the outbreak is under control, and there is no longer a risk to unborn children.
    • We are advising women of childbearing age regarding the risks of exposure if they were to become pregnant, and encouraging women who may be planning pregnancy to seek medical advice before travel.
    • We are advising men and women that there is a possibility of sexual transmission from a male partner.
    • And we are advising anybody who travels to affected areas to follow the published guidelines about prevention.

    Please talk to your Program Coordinator if you have already made payment to the organization, as a refund may be available. If you have any further questions or concerns please feel free to follow up with us at any time and we will make ourselves available to address them.

    CDC Guidelines and Links:

  • Guatemala: Surprise Twins!

    by Sarah Austria | Apr 15, 2016

    Irma knew she was pregnant.

    But she had no idea just how pregnant.

    Six months into her pregnancy Irma began having trouble breathing and was afraid she was having a miscarriage. She went to a local health clinic where a Medical Teams International nurse examined her and gave her surprising news: she was carrying two babies... and one of them might be turned in the wrong direction. The babies were in danger.

    She didn’t know it was even possible to have twins before that day. No one in her remote village had ever delivered them. No one had even seen a set of twins.

    Her community of Chitas sits on a remote Guatemalan mountainside, two hours up a dirt road from the town of Chicamán. It was while attending pre-natal classes taught by a Medical Teams International nurse and midwives in Chitas that Irma learned just how serious pregnancy complications can be. Her family was there for her. Irma’s husband works far away in Guatemala City and only comes home once every three months. Thankfully, her mother and sister live nearby and are able to help her cook and manage her one-room house.

    The pregnancy had been unexpectedly difficult for Irma, who already had one child. In a community where teen pregnancy is not uncommon, she delivered her first child without complications four years earlier-- at the age of 16. But this pregnancy with the twins had left her tired and her feet swollen. And news of the unsafe positioning of one of her babies made Irma fearful.

    The Medical Teams International nurse referred her to a health post that had ultrasound equipment. At first, Irma was reluctant to travel the necessary hour and a half to the health post, but she was having cramps and felt like she was going into labor. “I was really afraid the babies would die,” she says. And, from her training, she knew how important it was to take complications seriously.

    At the health post, health workers confirmed that Irma was carrying twins and gave her pain medication-- and emphasized how important it was, when the time came, to deliver in a hospital.

    When Irma’s labor started, her mother called Medical Teams International and two community health coordinators arranged for her to go to the clinic in Chicamán, which sent her on to the hospital in Uspantán. She was having cramps and felt like her heart was beating too hard. By the time she arrived at the hospital her breathing was labored, so doctors gave her oxygen. An X-ray showed the babies were compromised, and a doctor performed an emergency C-section.

    After the surgery, Irma learned that the baby girls were fine and with one on each side, she happily fell asleep.

    But they were not safe yet. Irma soon learned that the babies had low birthweights. One was only four pounds. She and the twins stayed in the hospital for 12 days. Irma was so distraught that her mother came to help her care for the babies in the hospital. Irma’s eyes fill with tears when she remembers their difficult first days.

    “It’s a blessing from God having my babies,” she says.

    Support for Irma and the baby girls continued when she arrived home. The midwife visited her, and the mother counselor taught her how to care for the twins. Medical Teams International’s Weight Monitoring Commission checked the weight of the babies and helped Irma provide nutrition for their healthy growth. Guatemala_Irma_MotherInfant

    Without your support, Irma may never have received education about the seriousness of pregnancy complications-- putting both her and her babies at risk. Thanks to you, they're all healthy. “It’s a blessing from God having my babies,” she says, “and I’m glad that the community also is happy.”

    Your support helps communities like Irma’s develop strong maternal and child health programs. Join our team and pray for hope and healing. Share Irma’s story on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Consider donating to provide education and training. On behalf of Irma and her family, thank you for your compassion.