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Medical Teams Blog: Stories of boldly breaking barriers to health

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  • Medical shipment arrives in Syria!

    by Emily Crowe | Apr 28, 2017

    Great news: Our shipment of urgently-needed medical supplies just made its way to Syria! We're partnering with the International Blue Crescent to provide support for war-torn regions. So far, we've been able to send nearly $1 million of medicines and health products to health facilities in some of the worst-hit regions in Syria.

    Check out photos from one of our deliveries in Syria:



    Our goal is to keep sending regular shipments into Syria. With your help, and the partnership of the International Blue Crescent, each delivery will provide $1 million worth of urgently-needed medical supplies!

    On a recent visit to the only post-operative hospital for Syrians in Turkey, our Humanitarian Advisor Dominic Bowen was able to meet with survivors of conflict in Syria. Nearly all of the survivors he met had suffered life-altering injuries. 

    As the war rages on in Syria, 40% of health facilities are reporting limited health services because there's no sustainable source of supplies. Our goal is to keep sending regular shipments into Syria. With your help, and the partnership of the International Blue Crescent, each delivery will provide $1 million worth of urgently-needed medical supplies!

  • Afaf: Daughter, aspiring teacher, Syrian refugee

    by Tyler Graf | Apr 27, 2017

    Get a personal look into the refugee crisis - follow our blog to see what being refugees has meant for one Syrian refugee family. We provide medical care at their settlement in Lebanon.

    Afaf still dreams about becoming a math teacher one day, even though she's now six years behind in school and spends her days working in nearby fields for $4 per day.

    Afaf was nine years old when her family fled Syria. She hoped to become a math teacher, a dream her parents worked hard to encourage and make possible. Her father, Adeen, wants nothing more than for his daughters to receive an education and pursue careers. The war put an end to that. Afaf hasn’t been back to school since.

    One of the main reasons her family decided to relocate was because of the rise in sexual violence against young women. Afaf understands why her family had to flee, but life in the camp is hard. Without many friends or school, she is often lonely. Because she is so young, she remembers little of Syria.

    She works the farm fields with her older sister, but the work does little to pass the time or inspire her.

    Her only friends are the children who reside in the neighboring tents. Although it's better than being in danger in war-torn Syria, it's nothing like the lives they left. There is little to do in the settlements except watch TV. The days slip away. When it's rainy season, the camp becomes flooded and their thin tent walls do little to protect them from the elements.

    “If the war hadn’t come, I would have gotten an education by now at least. But instead, I am working in the field for $4 a day," she shared.

    Despite being six years behind in school, Afaf holds onto the hope of going back, and maybe one day becoming a math teacher. 

  • Fistula: Four women whose lives have been changed forever.

    by Emily Crowe | Apr 25, 2017

    Last summer, Medical Teams International volunteers Pat Reser, Jeanine Ward, Pam King and Deb Hirsh traveled to Southwest Uganda where they met brave and resilient women recovering from obstetric fistulas - a heartbreaking childbirth injury that outcasts too many women around the world.


    The women they met – Joyce, Rosa, Patience and Beatrice – suffered their injuries after laboring alone for days without help from trained birth attendants. Without treatment, these women’s injuries made it impossible for them to control the flow of urine or stools from their bodies. They were rejected by their husbands, families and communities because their conditions caused a foul odor - and they were believed to be cursed. What's more - this preventable condition can be cured by a simple surgery.

    This situation is not rare. More than 1,000,000 women in sub-Sahara Africa are suffering from obstetric fistulas. Like modern-day lepers, they are outcast and abandoned by their families and neighbors.

    Thankfully, you're making change: Medical Teams International is working to prevent the condition in Uganda by providing maternal health education and access to pre-natal care, along with trained birth attendants. Women who are suffering from this condition are being referred for surgeries and receiving the help they need for healing and wholeness.

    On behalf of all of the women who's lives you are impacting in such an important way: Thank you.

  • Adeen: Shepherd, father, Syrian refugee.

    by Emily Crowe | Apr 11, 2017

    Tune in for the next three months for a focused look into what being refugees has been like for one Syrian refugee family. Five years ago, Adeen and his family gave up everything to seek safety as refugees in Lebanon. Now, they live in a refugee settlement and are trying hard to build new lives. This is their story.

    Adeen worked hard in Syria to give his children a better future. Now, their lives are on hold as they struggle to survive in a refugee settlement in Lebanon. We provide care for his family in their settlement, but can't give his son the open heart surgery he needs.

    A shepherd in Syria before the war, Adeen worked hard to provide for his family. Where he's from in Syria, it’s traditional to take children out of school at 10 years old to work. Teenage marriage is the norm for girls. 

    But Adeen wanted his children to have more choices. Even though he wasn't allowed to continue, he loved school as a child. He was adamant that his daughters continue schooling through university – one aiming to become a math teacher, another studying IT. He even supported his brother so that his nieces could afford to stay in school.

    When the war came, Adeen’s first priority was to protect his daughters from sexual assault. Seventeen people from his neighborhood were abducted over a short period of time. No one knew by whom. Houses were burning and bombs were falling, Adeen says, and no one was safe. The conflict between warring factions in Syria was heating up, and Adeen knew he had to escape to protect his family. His family were some of the first refugees to arrive in Lebanon. However, this meant leaving their livelihoods and home behind.

    We asked Adeen’s wife, Khawlah, how her life is now compared to before. “I had a comfortable life in Syria. We never had to ask for help from others, so we had our dignity intact. But now, each day is worse than the day before.”

    Now in Lebanon, the family lives in a ramshackle settlement in the Bekaa Valley. Their focus has turned to survival, eking out a daily existence and staying healthy. They can no longer afford school and the children are now six years behind in their schooling. Instead of going to classes, they work in Lebanese farms for $4 a day.

    Their farm earnings help cover their living expenses, but is not enough to pay for all the medicines for Adeen’s chronic illness or to pay for his son's urgently-needed open-heart surgery. Despite this, he's adamant that his daughters should not be forced into early marriage and is hopeful they will be able to finish their degrees one day. Adeen is thankful for the support his family has received. But, he knows much more must be done. “The needs are serious," he says.

    As months have become years, the family's hope is slipping away. Recently, they made a plan to give all the money they’d saved to their second eldest son to venture on his own across Turkey and into Greece. From there, he’d work his way north to Scandinavia, where he could establish himself, finish his education, get a job and, when he’d earned enough, send for his family.

    This ambitious plan is all the family has right now.

  • Refugee Family Spotlight: Leaving Syria, Kareena lost her education.

    by Tyler Graf | Mar 31, 2017


    Kareena lost her education when her family fled Syria. She holds onto the hope that she'll be able to finish her degree someday. Your support provides medical care for her family, especially her aging father. 

    Every refugee’s story is different. Tune in for the next few months for a focused look into what being refugees has been like for one Syrian refugee family. We provide medical care at their settlement. We’ll be sharing the unique story of each family member – revealing what it’s like to be a mother, father, son or daughter in a refugee settlement. Join us to hear their stories, fears, and hopes about their future.

    Before the Syrian war, Kareena’s biggest worry was failing an exam.

    She lost her education when she fled Syria, and with it an investment in her future.

    Life was simple for Kareena, who studied information technology at a university in Homs. She was surrounded by friends and family, spending time with them when not studying. “I had a regular life in Syria,” Kareena said. “I hoped to finish my studies.”

    But one year into her studies, war broke out. Kareena was just 20 years old when news of the fighting circulated in her community. First, there were rumors – civil unrest had spawned murders and kidnappings. Then the bombings began in nearby towns, proving the rumors correct.

    Trips to the university were perilous, Kareena says. She had to take multiple taxis to ensure no one was targeting her. This was a serious concern because of the high number of abductions that were taking place at the time. While she and her friends were never targeted, others weren’t so lucky. Many university students lost their lives simply because they sought an education.

    Life in Homs had become treacherous. There were kidnappings and murders. Dead bodies were even discovered at the university Kareena attended. Kareena’s family was forced to make a difficult choice – leave everything behind or stay and die.

    By leaving Syria, Kareena gave up her education.

    Five years after the start of the war, Kareena sees how it will affect future generations. “There are (many kids) who are not able to study,” she said. “Many children are being born in the camp, so they are not educated. Forty percent of the kids here are not going to school.”

    Kareena’s parents are firmly committed to her finishing her education. This commitment inspires her dream: Someday returning to Syria to finish her degree.

    One of Kareena’s top concerns is the lack of educational opportunities for young Syrian refugees.

    “Many kids go to school for one year and then stop,” Kareena said. “Transportation is difficult and expensive. Some parents want their kids to work instead. It’s tradition in Syria that families take kids out of school at 10 years old for work.”

    In Lebanon, Kareena cannot pursue her education. She works in a farm field six months out of the year, making $4 a day.

    Having left her bright and normal life behind, Kareena, now 26, wonders what the future will bring. Among her peers, it’s curious that Kareena isn’t married. In Syria, teen marriages are the norm. Even more surprising is that Kareena’s parents are firmly committed to her finishing her education.

    This commitment inspires her dream: Someday returning to Syria to finish her degree