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Medical Teams Blog: Stories of boldly breaking barriers to health

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  • Zimbabwe: Final miles the hardest for precious shipment

    by Tyler Graf | Jul 14, 2016

    Zimbabwe, Chidamoyo Hospital shipment 2, July 2016 (1)

    Workers unload a shipment of medical supplies at Chidamoyo Christian Hospital after it got stuck for several hours on its way to the rural facility.

    A shipment of medical supplies and surgical equipment from medical Teams International bound for Chidamoyo Hospital in Zimbabwe was left temporarily in the lurch when the truck carrying it got stuck on a hill.

    It was 11 p.m. – three hours after the shipment was scheduled to arrive – before hospital employees discovered the truck on Zimaiwei, a steep hill about eight miles from the hospital. The shipment had come so far, traveling for months after departing Medical Teams International’s Tigard, Ore., distribution center, and yet this hill posed its greatest challenge.

    Hospital employees discovered the truck had jack-knifed on the incline and spent all night working to move it. The much-anticipated shipment’s predicament motivated the workers to do everything they could: Two tractors came to assist in the truck’s removal, but to no avail. Finally, at around 1 p.m. the next day, the hospital dispatched a convoy of smaller vehicles to meet the truck where it was stuck and start unloading the shipment from it.

    While those final eight miles took more time and effort than anticipated, they were worth it for the hospital staff, who now had pallets of life-saving and costly equipment, valued at more than $834,000.

    Chidamoyo Hospital has operated in northwest Zimbabwe for 30 years, serving a rural community comprising roughly 75 miles. In a typical month, the hospital’s primarily volunteer staff serve 3,000 patients. As part of that work, staff typically deliver 150 babies and conduct 115 surgeries. Medical Teams’ shipment will help ensure that these medical procedures happen without incident, saving lives in the process. 

    Thank you for your support of Medical Teams International and making shipments like this one happen. Through your generosity, anything is possible. There is no hill that's too steep, no challenge that's too great. 
  • Sak's Story: A Cambodian mother

    by User Not Found | Jul 01, 2016

    Sak was desperate as she listened to her child’s labored breathing and raspy coughs. She was overwhelmed – and feared the worst for little Lysa.

    After a three-hour journey from her small Cambodian village of Thama, Sak arrived in the town of Siem Reap only to find everything closed for an unexpected holiday - the country’s king was visiting the town that very day, and nothing was open.Sak-cambodia-health

    She was so afraid for her child. What if the hospital was closed, too? Sak had borrowed money for the expensive taxi ride and hospital bills, and she left behind a farm that needed tending.

    She couldn’t afford to simply come back another day, and she did not know if her daughter would survive the delay. When she arrived at the hospital it looked closed and she feared the worst. She pounded on the doors and began screaming- she thought they were alone, and she was so afraid and so frustrated. She cried out and prayed: “Help my daughter!”

    As it turned it, doctors were there. They heard her cries and could treat her daughter.

    Borrowing more money and sinking deeper into debt, Sak spent the next month going back and forth between her home and the hospital. It was so expensive, but she had no choice if she wanted to keep her daughter alive. Finally, after a month, she received good news: her daughter was healthy again. Lysa returned home weak and exhausted – but alive.

    Sak recalls the terrifying experience of almost losing Lysa to a preventable and treatable illness: “I cried a lot during that time.” This time, Lysa was one of the lucky ones.

    Although Lysa survived, her mother still felt powerless and afraid. She knew that without preventative care, death and disease were very real threats for her family. She never wanted to relive this nightmare again.

    That’s when Sak learned about Medical Teams International. She heard about the classes she could take to learn about hygiene, nutrition, and illness prevention. Enrolling in this program helped Sake feel empowered to take care of her children. Relief and happiness replaced her anxiety, and her two children have gained weight and are healthy. Sak smiles, as she explains how Medical Team’s International’s classes and child growth monitoring will leave lasting results: “In the future, when this activity is finished, I can do this by myself.”

    It's because of your support that we are able to provide these lifesaving educational programs to Sak and other mothers like her. On behalf of Sak and Lysa, thank you for your generous support.

  • Photos from the Field: Volunteer dentists help Syrian refugees

    by Emily Crowe | Jun 24, 2016

    Meet some of the refugee families and children that our volunteer dental team helped while serving Syrian refugees in Greece in desperate need of dental care. Thank you for making these sweet smiles possible!





    On behalf of all those we serve: Thank you for all you do to help those in need around the world!


  • Greece update: At end of long journey, dental needs dire

    by Tyler Graf | Jun 20, 2016

    The following story comes from Frank Tyler, Medical Teams International's health adviser, who was in Greece this month with a team of volunteer dentists providing care and assessing the needs of the refugee population.

    June 20th is World Refugee Day, when we recognize the stark rate of displacement around the world. There are currently 65.3 million people who've been forcibly displaced, the most in modern history. A common thread runs through many of their stories -- one of uncertainty. And when medical emergencies occur, they only add to the uncertainty.


    At a near-capacity refugee settlement near the historic Greek city of Thessaloniki, a 7-year-old boy's teeth hurt. 

    His name is Mohamood, and he's already suffered at the hands of forces outside his control. His family are members of the Yazidi ethnic minority of Iraq. They fled conflict and persecution in 2014 along with fellow Yazidis when dangerous insurgents encroached on their homeland. With limited food and water, they made their way to Mt. Sinjar, considered a sacred place among the Yazidis.

    Even with so little at their disposal, the family held out hope -- hope that they would survive.

    Greece, Dental Syrian refugee boy Mohammed, June 2016

    Mohamood, 7, lies in a dental chair prior to receiving care from Dr. Bill Melby (Center) and Kathi Karnosh. Also pictured is Mohamood's father, Dahal (left).

    They were on the mountain for 10 days before the situation improved and they could slip down the mountainside to the Iraq-Turkey border. Unable to return home out of fear that they'd be killed, the family of nine -- Mohamood, his 43-year-old father Dahal, his mother and seven siblings -- decided to mount an escape to Europe under less than favorable conditions.  

    With that simple act, Mohamood -- whose short life has been consumed by conflict and stress -- saw that there are people in the world who care about him.
    Like more than one hundred thousand other migrants, the family found smugglers in Turkey and boarded a small dinghy bound for Greece. They ended up in Thessaloniki, one of two pre-registration hubs that provide child-friendly spaces. But at the settlement, they live without the ability to work or seek access to other countries.

    They are stuck.

    Life as a refugee is hard, and eventually it takes its toll on the body.

    The settlement food, often laden with sugar and other ingredients that degrade teeth, is not suitable for oral hygiene. Many refugees stop maintaining their teeth altogether. And because of that, their teeth begin to deteriorate. 

    When that began happening to Mohamood, he started feeling pain. The pain grew unbearable.
    But because of your generous support, volunteer dentists are in Greece providing care to some of the world's most vulnerable people -- people who have lost everything and often feel helpless. When the dentists treated Mohamood, they found three deep cavities. They filled the cavities, and with that, Mohamood's pain disappeared.

    With that simple act, Mohamood -- whose short life has been consumed by conflict and stress -- saw that there are people in the world who care about him.

    Children like Mohamood are suffering and feel a desperate need to escape. Through the groundwork laid by Medical Teams' incredible supporters, this dental team has been able to demonstrate a deep and lasting love for those in need.


  • Food Carts in Cambodia: Nutrition on the Go

    by Sarah Austria | Jun 16, 2016

    Every day, Chort sees happy, smiling faces from her food cart. But these aren’t just any food cart customers - these are the faces of hungry children looking for a nourishing meal to start their day. These are children whose parents struggle to provide a nutrient-rich breakfast- children who might otherwise go hungry.

    Chort is a 59-year-old housewife and mother living in Oddar Meanchey, a rural province in northwestern Cambodia. She is one of the first operators of Medical Teams International’s food cart program - an initiative launched in 2015 to battle childhood malnutrition in rural Cambodia.


    Many parents in the rural provinces of Cambodia must work hard to care for their families. Often, husbands and fathers have to travel-within Cambodia or abroad-to find work. In addition to caring for the family, some mothers must also work full days in order to survive. Busy mothers want to feed their children nutritious meals - but time and resources are scarce.

    Thanks to you, there is now a fast, healthy option for these families. The need is great- many of Cambodia’s rural communities suffer high rates of malnutrition. Roughly 32 percent of children in Cambodia have stunted growth; more than half are anemic. Nutritional deficiencies put children at an increased risk of serious illness and disease. Medical Teams International’s Food Cart Program operates in more than a dozen communities within Cambodia.

    Busy mothers want to feed their children nutritious meals - but time and resources are scarce.

    The last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, Oddar Meanchey lags behind other provinces in development. Without other options, hard-working mothers often turn to convenience foods to feed their children. Unfortunately, convenient often means unhealthy - many children in Chort’s village weren’t getting enough vitamin and nutrient-rich foods essential for healthy growth.

    Chort heard about the food cart project through a community awareness campaign in her village- she seemed like a good fit. Once identified as a potential food vendor, she and her husband attended a five-day training session conducted by Medical Teams International.

    She learned how to cook nutritious snacks and meals; most importantly, Borbor, a rice porridge of fish or pork with herbs and other fresh ingredients - a perfect food for young children. Building her skills as an entrepreneur, she also received training on hygiene and business management of the food cart. Afterwards, Chort signed an agreement with Medical Teams International and received her fully-stocked food cart. She was open for business.

    Now, in addition to selling her delicious and nourishing Borbor, Chort provides mothers with information on childhood nutrition. A taped, pro-nutrition message sounds from the speakers on her food cart. After months of selling Borbor and other homemade snacks, her daily sales have increased and she’s excited to see it keep growing.

    “I will continue selling nutritious, healthy food with my food cart, and advise mothers and caretakers of children on the benefits (of) ...good hygiene,” she said.

    This is more than just a business venture for the busy wife and mother. It’s a way of helping the children in her community have access to fresh, healthy food - her food cart is keeping her community strong.

    Thanks to you, Chort knows how to provide nutritious porridge and homemade snacks to hungry children in rural Cambodia. Along with satisfying growing bodies, your support grows healthy communities.