Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • Syrian Refugee: Where are Her Sons?

    by Sarah Austria | Apr 28, 2016

    Shamsa’s children are scattered in different countries: Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia. But it’s two of her sons that she worries about. Last she knew, they were in Syria. She does not know what happened to them- or if she will ever see them again.

    After the bombing of her city, Homs, Syria in 2012 Shamsa fled to Lebanon. Now, home is a refugee camp where she lives with two of her other sons. She traveled to the camp because she knew many of her friends and former neighbors from Homs were going there, as well. Anything familiar, any sense of community, is a warm embrace so far from home - especially after so much trauma.

    "I hope I will see them someday before I die."

    But Shamsa’s health is not well - she suffers from hypertension, asthma and back problems. Fortunately, while living in the refugee camp, she has received help from Medical Teams International. “MTI is really helping us. They are providing medication that I need on a monthly basis.”

    Forced to flee the violence of the now five-year long war in Syria, Shamsa is just one of many. Over one million Syrians have sought safety by crossing the border into Lebanon. Unfortunately, the Lebanese infrastructure simply cannot support the sudden, immense numbers of people needing care. Government and local and international agencies are overwhelmed. Thanks to your support, mothers like Shamsa are not alone.

    Programs offered in Lebanon by Medical Teams International prevent and reduce disease for refugees living in camps. Our programs also prevent and monitor dangerous epidemic outbreaks and increase health education through the identification and training of community health workers.

    Shamsa and her son at their new, makeshift home in the refugee settlement in Lebanon.

    Thanks to you, women like Shamsa are able to receive direct medical services in the refugee camp. “MTI’s doctor is really good. He always shows respect and patience.”

    Patience is a hard concept for a mother waiting to learn the fate of her children. She wants to go back and be with her children in Syria, but - for now - this is impossible. Speaking of her two sons last known living in Syria, Shamsa shares her heartbreaking wish: “I hope I will see them someday before I die.”

    Thank you for being there for women like Shamsa, and protecting the families who are struggling to endure and keep hope, even after so much loss.

  • 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.


  • 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.”

  • 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 >>

  • Our favorite books: Healthy Women, Healthy World

    by Emily Crowe | Apr 19, 2016

    Updated April 2017 from our original list published March 2016.

    Healthy Women Healthy World is Medical Teams International's initiative that seeks to mobilize women to be champions for health issues that impact women and their children. Throughout the year, members are given the opportunity to gather and learn about the global health issues women and children are facing-- engaging locally, at home, and abroad.

    What's an easy way you can get involved? Pick up a book! Get a personal glimpse into the struggles and realities facing women around the world.

    Healthy Women, Healthy World's Book List:
    The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers & Children by Roger Thurow 
    "'Your child can achieve great things.' A few years ago, pregnant women in four corners of the world heard those words and hoped they could be true. Among them were Esther Okwir in rural Uganda, where the infant mortality rate is among the highest in the world; Jessica Saldana, a high school student in a violence-scarred Chicago neighborhood; Shyamkali, the mother of four girls in a low-caste village in India; and Maria Estella, in Guatemala's western highlands, where most people are riddled with parasites and moms can rarely afford the fresh vegetables they farm..."

    When Broken Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him 
    "In the Cambodian proverb, 'when broken glass floats' is the time when evil triumphs over good. That time began in 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia and the Him family began their trek through the hell of the 'killing fields.' In a mesmerizing story, Him vividly recounts a Cambodia where rudimentary labor camps are the norm and technology, such as cars and electricity, no longer exists. Death becomes a companion at the camps, along with illness. Yet through the terror, Chanrithy's family remains loyal to one another despite the Khmer Rouge's demand of loyalty only to itself. Moments of inexpressible sacrifice and love lead them to bring what little food they have to the others, even at the risk of their own lives."

    Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDun 
    "From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.
    With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope.
    They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad."

    Desert Flower by Waris Dirie
    "Waris Dirie ran away from her oppressive life in the African desert when she was barely in her teens, illiterate and impoverished, with nothing to her name but a tattered shawl. She traveled alone across the dangerous Somali desert to Mogadishu—the first leg of a remarkable journey that would take her to London, where she worked as a house servant; then to nearly every corner of the globe as an internationally renowned fashion model; and ultimately to New York City, where she became a human rights ambassador for the U.N. Desert Flower is her extraordinary story."

    Have a favorite book that you think we should add to this list? Let us know!