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Medical Teams Blog: Stories of boldly breaking barriers to health

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  • Haiti: Cholera threat intensifies

    by Emily Crowe | Oct 26, 2016

    This story comes straight from the field in Haiti. Carmen, one of our staff members, just returned from serving victims of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and shared this story with us:

    Long before Hurricane Matthew’s catastrophic encounter with Haiti’s southern peninsula, disease prevention was a major concern. Now, nearly three weeks after the recent storm, Haiti is a weakened state and straddling a fine line toward reaching a Cholera outbreak - the small country could be on the brink of another kind of disaster.

    Within the area, six of twelve cholera treatment centers are now damaged and not operating.

    Haiti-relief-house-hurricaneNew information reveals that the Southern region where Medical Teams International is working has experienced over 650 cases of Cholera since Hurricane Matthew, at least 17 resulting in death and 50% of new cases coming from these coastal communes. Within the area, six of twelve cholera treatment centers are now damaged and not operating. Those that remain open are not equipped with cholera treatment centers, putting those who need care at risk. In one center, patients were found waiting on the floor and sitting in close proximity to their families instead of being isolated to avoid further contamination - risking those who are ill and their families.

    “We haven’t seen cholera in recent natural disasters we have responded to, but when we do see it, it’s disastrous.”

    Should conditions continue on in this manner, it is very likely that the situation willHaiti-Hurricane-Matthew-distribution grow dramatically worse—fast. When asked about Haiti’s risk of reaching the breaking point for a Cholera outbreak, MTI’s Global Health Advisor, Frank Tyler, shared, “We haven’t seen cholera in recent natural disasters we have responded to, but when we do see it, it’s disastrous.”

    Medical Teams International is responding. In some of the most desperate communes, including Port Salut, St. Jean and Arniquet, Medical Teams is setting up Mobile Medical Units and disaster prevention programs. Our teams of volunteer medical professionals will reach the most vulnerable who have been affected by Hurricane Matthew.

  • Syrian refugees: Sharing fears, dreams... and watermelon.

    by Emily Crowe | Oct 25, 2016

    This story comes straight from the field. Ashley, one of our recent volunteers who went to Greece to provide care for Syrian refugees, shares with us a story about one of the refugee families she met while providing care for the many in need.

    Every day in the refugee center, there is a refugee family who insists on sharing whatever they can with the medical staff as a way of saying thank you – usually it’s watermelon.

    Miriam and Ahmed live there with two of their 12 kids. They say that before, life was safe. You could come and go as you please. Then ISIS came. People were questioned whenever they were outside and lived under a curfew. If Kurdish you were persecuted. You never felt safe as bombs could fall at any time.

    They sent eight kids out of Syria ahead of them where they are safely living in Germany, Belgium and the USA. Two of their daughters remained back in Syria as they were married with children.

    “It doesn’t matter where we go. I just want my kids to be safe. I want an education for them and stability. It is all about my kids.”

    In September 2015, the four remaining members of the family left for Turkey and lived there for six months. They could not work, so they fled by boat to Greece where they have been for the past six months. Medical Teams International has helped Miriam with her chronic back pain and Ahmed manage his hypertension and prostate problems.

    Medical Teams International ensures they have access to the proper medication they need to stay healthy. They say that before Medical Teams there was only a military doctor who just gave pills but did not examine or listen to the patient. They also say he sometimes gave the wrong medication.

    When Ahmed was asked what his hopes were for the future he said, “It doesn’t matter where we go. I just want my kids to be safe. I want an education for them and stability. It is all about my kids.” He said he would go back to Syria if it were safe but would not force his kids to go back. The last I saw of Ahmed was his family on a bus being transferred to a new camp after theirs flooded and needed to be evacuated. This strong, caring father had tears in his eyes as he had heard the camp he was going to was worse than this one... and there was nothing he could do about it.

  • Life after the earthquake: Nepal

    by Tyler Graf | Oct 19, 2016

    In the villages that speckle the rugged Nepal terrain, life is hard on mothers and their young children. With opportunities for financial advancement severely limited, families rely on self-sufficiency, grit and determination.

    They build their own homes, grow their own food and often raise their own livestock.

    But many young mothers suffer from a lack of health care knowledge and limited access to primary health services. In the mountainous landscape of Nepal, where paved roads are nonexistent, even local health facilities are not easily accessible. Malnutrition is high in these areas, resulting in 21 percent of children being underweight. 

    That was before the massive 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck, crumpling crumpling buildings, caving in roads and killing thousands throughout Nepal. Life afterward brought more uncertainty and hardship for mothers living in these elevated communities. 

    Kunwor had given birth before the earthquake shook the countryside, in April 2015. She lives in the Dhading District, near the epicenter, an area that sustained heavy damage and nearly a thousand casualties during the quake. 

    When her baby was born, Kunwor was so nervous. Would her baby be healthy? Many of the young children in her rural community suffer from persistent ailments rooted in malnutrition and disease. Kunwor didn’t feel as if she had the proper knowledge to take care of her baby, so it was with a heavy heart that she worried about Kunwor.

    The village is incredibly remote, with no road access. The only way to reach the nearest city is to walk for two hours.

    Life after the earthquake only became harder. Thousands were left homeless, living in tents or under tarps. In this post-quake environment, Medical Teams International began working in the Dhading District, providing education and care to mothers and children.

    Nepal, Kunwor and her baby, Oct. 2016"I have learned how to carefully take care of my baby," Kunwor said.

    Kunwor began attending training sessions and following instructions on how to care for her baby. She learned how to make a low-cost, highly nutritious porridge to feed her baby The little baby's health began to improve, as did the other children in the community. Because of this, Kunwor knew the training sessions were helping.

    Inspired by what she'd learned, Kunwor vowed to be an agent of change in her village. She is now educating other mothers, teaching them what she has learned, while at the same time receiving further encouragement through Medical Teams' maternal and child health facilitators.

  • Hurricane Matthew: Pregnant, destroyed home, anxious.

    by User Not Found | Oct 12, 2016

    “Huge devastation” is how Dr. Joanne St. Louis described some of the regions in Haiti hit by Hurricane Matthew. She's Medical Teams International’s Haiti country director and on the ground responding to the disaster. Her team has been sharing updates from the field -- here's one about a young woman named Didine.

    When Hurricane Matthew hit Didine’s home, there was little she could do. Pregnant and home with her family, more than just her own life was at risk. At 4am, Hurricane Matthew literally blew the roof off of her home. As the walls of her home were stripped away by the vicious wind, she hid under her bed, trying desperately to keep herself and her unborn child safe until the worst of the storm had passed.

    Thankfully, they survived the storm. But the hurricane destroyed her home, her belongings, and left her injured. Pregnant and her home destroyed, she’s worried. With no health center in her hometown, she has no place to turn to receive care for her and her unborn child.

    Amidst all of this chaos thankfully our teams were able to provide basic health services and are working hard to bring health and relief to victims like Didine who have nowhere else to turn after the hurricane.  

    Pregnant and her home destroyed, she’s worried... she has no place to turn to receive care for her and her unborn child.

    Hurricane Matthew is the worst storm to hit Haiti in 50 years. With the estimated death toll estimated at 1,000 and raising, 15,000 displaced people, 3-5 million people affected, 1,855 flooded houses, and at least 2,000 children separated from their parents, Haiti is hurting.

    Didine and her community will need ongoing care that the local health infrastructure is incapable of meeting. Our teams have been working hard to improve healthcare in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, fighting cholera, addressing maternal & child health issues and supporting local partners, but the country has never fully recovered. With more people in need and infrastructure and health systems destroyed, many like Didine need your help.

    Shelter, food, and water are the biggest needs and cholera is a major worry . At least 13 people have died from the disease since the hurricane, as sewage and floodwaters mix, according to media reports. Disease continues to spread, people are constantly being found with injuries, clinics have been destroyed and functional hospitals are low on supplies. Get the latest updates & FAQ’s here >>

  • Hurricane Matthew Update: October 6, 2016

    by User Not Found | Oct 06, 2016

    Hurricane Matthew has left a destructive path in Haiti. With bridges collapsed, roads flooded, electric poles down, and cellular and internet communication limited, there are many in need. Get the latest FAQ's + updates here >>


    The hurricane left the Grand’Anse and Sud regions devastated. Rural homes, made from grass or mud, have been wiped out, and farms and harvests are gone. People are taking refuge in shelters where the need for food, safe water, and medical care are great and the risk of health concerns related to water and sanitation is high.


    The death toll is likely to keep rising as more affected rural areas are reached. Using intact airstrips in the southern peninsula will increase ability to reach communities in need.


    Our teams are responding. Communities are trying to seek safety and reach neighbors despite destroyed roads and flooding. Those who are able are crossing the river on other’s backs and tractors working in the river to make way. The water level continued to rise as the rain kept coming down.