(PORTLAND, ORE. - April 15, 2008) For many Americans, a visit to the doctor is as routine as their morning cup of coffee. But in Darfur, Sudan, parents and their children often go months and years without seeing a doctor. For two U.S. physicians, that truth is prompting them to spend four weeks in this war-torn area, bringing critically needed care to children living in remote villages and camps for displaced people.
Dr. Ian Shenk, a Virginia internist., and Dr. Prudence Barrett Nelson, a Michigan pediatrician, recently arrived in Darfur, the United Nations calls “the world’s worst humanitarian aid crisis.” This is the second assignment in Sudan for both of them.
Both volunteers are seasoned relief workers with Medical Teams International. Dr. Shenk has made 12 missions with the humanitarian aid agency, including assignments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia and Vietnam. Dr. Barrett Nelson has volunteered in Uganda, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan with Medical Teams International.
“Doctors are difficult to find in the war-ravaged region of Darfur,” explains Joe DiCarlo, emergency relief director for Medical Teams International. “Government-run medical clinics exist, but lack of medical supplies, medicines and trained staff mean that thousands of Sudanese children die each day. We’re grateful to Dr. Shenk and Dr. Barrett Nelson; they’re making a lifesaving difference.”
The two doctors will serve a one-month assignment in Sudan where Medical Teams International has been working since 2004. The team will treat patients at three Ministry of Health clinics where medicines are scarce and children are dying from treatable diseases like respiratory infections, malaria and dysentery.
“The situation in Darfur continues to worsen,” says Dr. Wendy Dyment, the emergency health specialist at Medical Teams International. “Even more children are dying this year than last, so urgent and expanded medical assistance is needed to reverse this alarming trend.”
Medical Teams International is a relief and development organization that sends medical volunteers and supplies to people affected by disaster, conflict and poverty. In its 29-year history, Medical Teams International has deployed more the 1,700 volunteer teams and shipped more than $1 billion in medicines to care for 35 million people in 100 countries.