Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • World Toilet Day: How do toilets battle poverty?

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 19, 2015

    Today is an unusual day: World Toilet Day. Created in 2013 United Nations General Assembly, it's a day entirely to an often-overlooked tool in the fight against poverty: toilets.

    Compared to more "glamorous" health tools like new clinics or innovative food programs, a toilet may not seem like the most exciting way to save lives. In reality, this couldn't be any further from the truth.

    Why is a toilet an important tool to end poverty? This year's theme focuses on one of the big ways toilets (and safe drinking water) hurt developing communities: Better sanitation for better nutrition.

    Without a safe toilet, it's easy for water sources to become contaminated by human waste-- causing diseases like repeated diarrhea and intestinal worm infection-- both of which produce roughly 50% of all malnutrition cases around the world. Nearly 1000 children die every day from diarrheal diseases linked to a lack of safe water and sanitation.

    So, in honor of World Toilet Day, we're sharing snapshots of some of the many ways your support is at work around the world, from Cambodia to Latin America-- bringing safer sanitation to children and communities and bringing these deadly statistics down.

    latrine guatemala
    GUATEMALA: Volunteers & locals install a latrine, as well as hand washing stations, in a rural village in Guatemala. Learn more about our health projects in Guatemala.

    CAMBODIA: Children practice proper handwashing with their mother, who was trained at local Community Health meeting led by MTI. Learn more about how you can help families in Cambodia.

    Handwashing Nepal
    NEPAL: Local women are taught about the importance and basics of handwashing at a post-earthquake clinic led by MTI. Learn more about our work in Nepal.

  • An early Christmas gift brightens Edena's smile

    by Tyler Graf | Nov 17, 2015

    The holidays seem to come sooner and sooner each year, a fact not lost on Edena, a Native American woman who lives a humble life in the American Southwest on a reservation.

    Edena grew up during World War II, a time of rationing and food shortages for her family. All they had were each other during Christmas, but that was plenty. On Christmas day, they gathered friends and family and gave out handmade crafts and baked goods.

    Edena said she wished people still focused on being with their families on holidays instead of shopping. People should still make things for each other, she said.

    Edena reflected on the nature of giving at a community health screening held at the reservation. The event had a Christmas theme tied to "giving." 

    Shipping, Edena in the SW, 2015
    Edena opens her early Christmas stocking and is happy to find health supplies and assorted gifts.

    At the screening health workers were able to give Edena a stocking filled with health supplies-- a gift that you provided. Some of the gifts were hard-to-come-by dental supplies, much needed in a region with some of the highest instances of tooth decay and gum disease in the country.

    The stocking included top-of-the-line toothbrushes and other important hygiene and health supplies. Among the elderly population of the reservation, poor dental health is a major cause of other health problems down the road, such as heart disease and pneumonia. 

    Edena was so thankful for what you provided. It reminded her of the useful gifts she used to receive as a child, and embodied the spirit of Christmas "giving" she truly treasures.

    Thanks to your gift, Edna is better protected from these preventable diseases-- this holiday season and for years to come.

  • Cambia Team Leaves Uganda With a Prototype App in Hand

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 09, 2015

    This post originally appeared on Cambia Health Solution's blog, The Pulse. Cambia has been our partner for many years, providing valuable support for our mobile dental program. We are thrilled with this new opportunity: working together to design a system that will help our Uganda clinics provide better care than ever before-- potentially saving many more lives.

    Check out the most recent updates from the field, and follow #techpossible on FacebookTwitter or Instagram for updates.

    Cambia MTI Uganda 2015 012

    By Lisa Honebrink, Strategic Communications

    It’s our fourth and final day on the ground in Uganda. While we wake to the sound of a hard rain, spirits aren’t damp but buoyant. That’s because, after spending all of yesterday hunkered down inside the hotel, Cambia’s IT team has developed a prototype app. And they’re eager to use this last day here to get it into the hands of Medical Teams International doctors and see what happens.

    After testing the app with three doctors and a data clerk, the reaction was unanimous: an enthusiastic thumbs up.

    “We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the week,” said Project Manager Mark Wyman. As much as that statement applies to the work accomplished during the discovery trip, it also applies to the life-changing perspective and experiences the team gained this week.

    As we pack our bags for the 20 hours of travel back to the U.S., we’re sad to leave the warm, welcoming people of Uganda and the hospitality and comradery of the Medical Teams staff.

    While we will never forget the faces and stories of the refugees we met, we also witnessed Medical Teams staff and volunteers doing all they can to help those who have lost everything. That inspires us to do all we can, through our work skills and through our hearts, to ensure the best possible care is delivered to those who need it most – down the street or across the world.

    It also reminds us of the value of combining knowledge and resources when trying to solve complex problems.

    “This project involves the UN, the government of Uganda, Medical Teams and Cambia Health Solutions,” said Doug Fountain, Medical Teams VP of Operations. “Without that partnership, this all wouldn’t be possible. With this partnership, it is possible.”

    Next: The group returns to Portland for a hackathon with four more Cambia IT team members, to continue to build the prototype app out to completion.

    Visit our Oct. 28 blog post, Cambia Technology Experts Travel to Uganda to Aid Health Refugee Clinics, and visit our Facebook photo album for new trip photos.

    Photo by Johnny Miller for Cambia

  • Liberia's Dental Crisis: 10 dentists, 4+ million in need

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 06, 2015

    How important is access to good dental care? In Liberia, dental care is a scarce commodity-- so scarce, in fact, that the lack of access sometimes results in deadly consequences. Matt Stiller, Director of Dental Programs at Medical Teams International, reports from the field in Liberia:

    In a country of 4 million+ with less than 10 dentists, dental treatment is simply not an option available to 99% of citizens. In three days of dental related meetings, I heard of three separate recent deaths from dental infections. Health officials recognize the need but do not have the capacity to improve conditions. MTI dental teams can save lives now- we need volunteer dental professionals to lead the charge!

    It is heartbreaking to witness the immense need for dental care in Liberia. Our hearts go out to these vulnerable families and communities-- We cannot wait to see the truly life-saving impact your support will have on these families.


  • Ugandans Tell Cambia They Are Eager to Embrace New Technology

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 05, 2015

    This post originally appeared on Cambia Health Solution's blog, The Pulse. Cambia has been our partner for many years, providing valuable support for our mobile dental program. We are thrilled with this new opportunity: working together to design a system that will help our Uganda clinics provide better care than ever before-- potentially saving many more lives.

    Check out the most recent updates from the field, and follow #techpossible on FacebookTwitter or Instagram for updates.

    Cambia MTI Uganda 2015 008_0By Lisa Honebrink, Strategic Communications

    On day three in Uganda, the IT team foregoes the field visits to focus on the tech solution in their workroom in the hotel. An array of sticky notes fills an entire wall and columns of notes are scribbled on a large presentation pad on an easel.

    The small communications team follows the original schedule for the day and drives about an hour to the first refugee health center Medical Teams International established in southwest Uganda in 2008. Then there were only tents for a health clinic. Today, there is a health clinic, a maternity building, nutrition services, HIV clinic and outreach services with home visits to those who can’t make it into the clinic. This health center serves mainly Congolese.

    We start our tour in the maternity building.

    We walk into a room filled with two rows of four beds lined against opposite walls, with a narrow aisle in the middle. Space between each bed is sparse. At the far end of the row a pregnant woman sits at the edge of her bed. Already a mother of five, she knew it was time to come in and is waiting for labor to begin. Two other women have had their babies within the last few hours, so they lie with their swaddled newborns nestled close, being monitored before they are released. Two pregnant women have malaria and are described as “very ill, in an extremely dangerous situation for both mother and baby.”

    We are led across the narrow lobby into another room, where an HIV-infected mother is holding her baby. As this mother didn’t visit the Medical Teams clinic for pre-natal care or delivery, she was unaware she was HIV-positive throughout her pregnancy and then began breast feeding her newborn. When she finally visited the maternity clinic for follow-up care, the clinicians discovered her HIV status and tested the baby for infection. It will take two weeks to learn the result.

    We exit this building to walk the short distance across the dirt courtyard to the health clinic. There, a boy of about 10 years old with a bad cough is being seen by a doctor. We learn the boy has had to walk there on his own, as his parents are farmers and must work in the fields today. A chicken appears through one open doorway, struts between benches of refugees waiting to see the doctor, and out the other open door, back into the courtyard from where it came. None of the refugees blinks an eye.

    Medical Teams staff from the maternity building walks in to tell us the mother of five has begun labor and is in the delivery room. We are invited to stand outside the door. The woman is sitting up on the delivery table, a nurse rubbing her back. As we leave to give her privacy, we discover where the chicken went, as one of the clinicians is chasing it from this building’s lobby.

    “Cambia has come at the right time to partner with Medical Teams,” says Felix Omodi, Medical Teams Uganda director. “Having your team here is a way to expose my staff to new technology, and we are eager to grab whatever we can learn.”

    Before the maternity department existed, refugees in the settlement were delivering at home without assistance from a midwife or medical professional. Friends or family members did not understand how to assist with a normal delivery, let alone a breach baby or how to recognize when complications required immediate medical attention. As a result, too many mothers and babies died. Too many women who should have had C-sections, but endured delivery without, were horribly injured. A woman who volunteered at the health clinic in 2011 heard these horror stories and made a generous donation to Medical Teams that allowed the maternity building to be built in 2012.

    “Our maternity department is the heart of the health center,” said Racheal Kyalikoba, Medical Teams Uganda volunteer coordinator. “This is where the children of this settlement get their start. This is the future of our nation. Mothers get care here and their children get care that will help them live better lives.”

    Visit our Oct. 28 blog post, Cambia Technology Experts Travel to Uganda to Aid Health Refugee Clinics, visit our Facebook photo album for new trip photos, and stay tuned for one more blog post from Uganda.

    Photo by Mark Goodnow for Cambia