Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • 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!


  • Zika Virus: Volunteer Update

    by User Not Found | 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.”

  • Anxious About Delivery

    by Sarah Austria | Apr 13, 2016

    Rosalia and Roberto live in the semi-rural community of San Jose la Laguna, outside the city of Senahu, Guatemala - an area where health services are hard to access. Expecting their fourth child - but unable to pay for a midwife or seek care at a private health center – they turned to their local public health clinic. Sadly, these clinics often lack medical supplies like sterile gloves or gauze - forcing patients to bring their own or go without. Like too many in their community, Rosalia and Roberto did not have the resources to afford these critical supplies.

    The couple feared what would happen if the clinic did not have the supplies they needed. They were concerned for the safety of Rosalia and her baby. Would there be clean gauze to stop bleeding and protect them from infections? Would doctors reuse disposable gloves after other deliveries? All of these scenarios could put Rosalia and her baby's life at risk.

    But, thankfully, they were not alone. As their due date grew closer, a shipment from thousands of miles away was already en route to stock the clinic with critically-needed supplies.

    Thanks to your support, we were able to send a shipment of surgical equipment and medical supplies - the exact supplies that Rosalia would need during her birth - to the health center. Included were surgical gloves, gauze, clamps and aspirators - all supplies needed to ensure safe and clean birth care.

    Roberto rushed Rosalia to the clinic when her labor began. They were so relieved to find the health center fully stocked with clean, safe supplies. Thanks to you, doctors had everything they needed for the safe birth of Rosalia’s healthy son, Carlos.Rosalia_Guatemala_Mother_Infant_BIrthcare

    “We have received good care and we are thankful to God and the doctors and the nurses who work in this clinic,” Roberto said. “We bought absolutely nothing because they had everything here.”

    Your support gives small communities around the world, like those of Rosalia and Roberto, access to simple – but life-saving – resources. Thank you. Please share Rosalia's story on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.