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Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Get the latest updates from our programs in the field internationally and here in the United States.  

  • Lebanon Success Story: Tackling Chronic Conditions in Refugee Camps

    by Tyler Graf | Mar 24, 2015

    Lebanon, Ibrahim who has hypertension, March 2015
    Syrian refugee Ibrahim and two of his sons.

    For the past five years, Ibrahim has been closely monitoring his health. The Syrian refugee now living in a tented settlement in Lebanon suffers from hypertension. He requires medication to keep his blood pressure in check.

    But he’s learning – eating right is essential, too.

    In his previous life in Syria, before the war displaced him and his family, Ibrahim was a driver. He eventually had to quit his job to look after his health, and that’s when things began to change for the worse. That’s when the swirling specter of war descended. He, his wife and their 10 children lived in the suburbs of Aleppo, one of the oldest cities in the world. Now it’s little more than dust and rubble, leveled under an unrelenting onslaught of barrel bombs and ISIS-led attacks.

    Ibrahim and most of his family were fortunate to escape Syria, and for the past 18 months they’ve been living in the settlement. Ibrahim's eldest son, a 20-year-old, is currently being detained by the Syrian government. Attempts to win his release using what little money the family has have been fruitless.

    The situation is enough to send anyone’s blood pressure skyrocketing.  

    But there’s hope. For the past five months, Medical Teams International has been providing medical care to Ibrahim, a result of your generous donations. At dozens of Lebanon’s “informal tented settlements,” the majority of refugees come from formerly stable backgrounds, like Ibrahim’s. The most pressing health needs in the settlements are related to chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes and oral decay.

    Many of the refugees are like Ibrahim. Though he comes from a middle class background, he’s not allowed to work in Lebanon. Two of his girls lend a hand in a nearby field, where they're paid $3.50 a day. Still, Ibrahim cannot move freely through Lebanon without first renewing his papers every six months, at a cost of $200.  

    Despite the hardships, Ibrahim’s health is improving, thanks to your support. He’s learned to decrease his intake of salt and sugar and tries to avoid coffee and fats. Ibrahim acknowledges that taking medicine without a change in diet will not ultimately help his health.

    Ibrahim says he believes his health has vastly improved. He can walk five kilometers without a problem. Before he received care, including dietary counseling and medications, he had chest pain and no energy.

    Reflecting on the care he’s received from MTI, thanks to you, he said the staff members “are so accommodating. When I deal with them, I feel comfortable. They really take care of us.”

    Thank you so much for opening your hearts to the plight of the Syrian people who are fleeing their country in record numbers. More information about MTI’s work in Lebanon can be found here. And please consider giving to the cause.

  • Guatemala Success Story: Enabling Community Leaders

    by Tyler Graf | Mar 24, 2015

    Don Mateo is a pillar of his community, the rural and mountainous municipality of San Juan Chamelco.  For years, he’s been an acting male midwife and has served in various other capacities, including as a community health promoter.

    The 69-year-old remains active, and people in the community admire and respect him because of his tireless efforts. As a volunteer health promoter, Don Mateo received training sessions conducted by MTI that have helped him to expand his repertoire of knowledge. At the local church, he organized a community meeting around the topic of pneumonia in children younger than 5 years old and invited families to learn from his new-found knowledge.

    Through your amazing support, in the form of donations and prayers, this work is made possible.

    While Don Mateo was undeniably the leader of the meeting, it was truly a community affair. Because Don Mateo doesn’t know how to read or write, he tapped a young person from the church to help him relay the key messages provided by MTI. While he extemporaneously spoke about the importance of caring for children, his young assistant rattled off the warning signs of pneumonia and how to keep it at bay.

    Those in attendance comprehended the message, which was that pneumonia can be a deadly disease, especially in young children and the elderly. Warning signs of pneumonia include having a persistent cough, a racing heartbeat and nausea.

    In Chamelco, Alta Verapz, more than 128 people were trained through August 2014 in promoting the prevention and treatment of pneumonia. MTI intends to bolster its work to train even more community volunteers and reach its long-term goals. One challenge during fiscal year 2014 was that during the first half of the year, many men from the villages migrated temporarily in search of work. 

    But men like Don Mateo, who are capable of remaining in villages and promoting healthy living, deserve accolades for their work.
  • South Sudan Update: Dedication on Display During Health Care Training

    by Tyler Graf | Mar 20, 2015

    South Sudan, Clinic 3, March 2015
    Patients rest at a South Sudanese hospital. Medical Teams International has partnered with World Vision to train health care workers at the facility.

    South Sudan remains a chokepoint for some of the world’s most exposed people, mothers with children and whole families displaced by a civil conflict now more than a year old. Of the more than 240,000 South Sudanese refugees who remain in the country despite the fighting, unable to go anywhere else, there are thousands in desperate need of health care.

    This month, Medical Teams International (MTI), in collaboration with World Vision, sent representatives to South Sudan to begin work on improving newborn care services at Kuajok Hospital in Warrap, South Sudan. At the facility, medical volunteers from the nonprofits conducted a training needs assessment and hands-on mentoring for medical staff.

    The South Sudanese health care workers who participated in the training sessions were a dedicated bunch. Some were suffering from typhoid or malaria but nonetheless sat through the classes. Outside the hospital, more dedication was on display. Under the shade of a large tree, mothers and their infants waited patiently to be seen by doctors and nurses.

    It was outside the hospital, under the baking sun, that MTI volunteer nurse Brenda M. encountered something beautiful. A little baby was crawling toward her, oblivious, it seemed, to his surroundings. Seeing him, Brenda couldn’t resist. She scooped him up and held him in her arms. For a moment, there was dead silence from the crowd. Then the baby looked up with his big eyes. The glint of confusion flashed before them.

    More silence — and then it happened.

    The baby started shrieking, presumably at the realization that his mother was not, in fact, holding him. The previously silent crowd roared with laughter.

    South Sudan, Brenda and baby, March 2015
    MTI volunteer Brenda M. and a friend she discovered crawling near her feet in South Sudan.

    These are signs that even amid disaster, conflict and poverty, life goes on — as it always will, in South Sudan and elsewhere. Where there’s an indomitable spirit, there’s a way. And through teamwork, we can embolden that spirit. Thank you for believing that every person is entitled to dignity, health care and happiness. It’s only through you that this is possible.

    MTI will continue to partner with World Vision in South Sudan to help bolster resources and provide training and assistance to health workers. 

    Photos courtesy of Brenda M.
  • Liberia Update: Clinics Offer Free Services

    by Tyler Graf | Mar 19, 2015

    Liberia, Clinic 1, March 2015
    Infant Wilmot W., lying on his mother's lap, cries after receiving care at a health clinic in Montserrado, Liberia.

    Medical Teams International is continuing its work to ensure that both private and public health facilities not only stay open but also thrive in Montserrado County, Liberia – the country that until recently was at the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic.

    This shift poses a slate of new challenges, according to MTI’s Liberia staff. Chief among them? Many patients still do not trust health facilities, even after improved infection-control measures were put in place to curb the spread of Ebola. MTI’s in-country team is now encouraging the health facilities’ staffs to create awareness campaigns about the services they provide in an effort to gain public trust.

    Because of your donations, the Gracie A. Reeves Baptist Community Medical Center in Gaye Town is taking the encouragement to heart. The small clinic is offering free services to children younger than 5 and pregnant women. Clinicians are also busy making trips into the community to talk directly to sick people in order to convince them to seek treatment.

    We’re happy to report that these efforts have already yielded good results, thanks to your support. The number of daily patients has shot up from two to 30 since the awareness campaign and free services began. These are some of the most vulnerable people in the world, too – people who watched as loved ones died as a result of the Ebola virus. Despite their hardships, they are believing in the system again.

    One of these patients was a 3-month-old infant, Wilmot W., whose family brought him to Gracie A. Reeves Baptist Community Medical Center so he could be circumcised. The child’s mother thanked the clinicians for offering the free service, adding that she was too scared to take her newborn to a health clinic during the height of the Ebola epidemic. “But with your encouragement to our family, we mustered the courage to bring little Wilmot to be circumcised,” she told clinic workers.

    Your donations and prayers have helped immeasurably in bringing normalcy to Liberia. The work continues, one baby and mother at a time.

  • Update: Cyclone Pam Response

    by Tyler Graf | Mar 17, 2015

    Photo source: Graham Crumb, UNICEF PACIFIC via EPA

    Medical Teams International (MTI) has been monitoring the aftermath of Cyclone Pam, the Category 5 storm that slammed into the Republic of Vanuatu March 13. We deeply appreciate your prayers for the communities destroyed, and your contributions that will go toward re-establishing essential services and helping the some 48,000 people affected by the storm.

    Australia and New Zealand have been fast to respond to the disaster, and nongovernmental organizations from those countries are working on Vanuatu’s most urgent needs — providing shelter, food and water, along with addressing health care. While MTI has decided not to send a team directly to Vanuatu, we have partnered with the nonprofit TEAR Fund New Zealand and will continue to assist with its disaster response of providing food, water and sanitation to those who have been displaced. According to the most recent update from TEAR Fund, the nonprofit's emphasis in the coming weeks will be on helping farmers plant seeds to kick start crops and minimize future food shortages. Sustainability efforts like these are praise-worthy

    Teams of Australian and New Zealand doctors and nurses are also on standby in case health care becomes a priority need. We are truly blessed to have a network of compassion-filled partners who can efficiently act as our hands and feet to provide aid to the world’s most vulnerable people.

    As the citizens of Vanuatu work to pick up the pieces of their lives, please continue to keep them in your thoughts and prayers. The heavy lifting of rebuilding homes, roads and hospitals, not to mention repairing the psychological wounds created by the destruction, is just beginning. MTI will continue to monitor the situation. And if any unmet health needs arise, we will consider a direct response. 

    More information about MTI's disaster relief efforts can be found here.

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