With the support of people like you, we have spent over 40 years responding to disease outbreaks and epidemics. From Ebola to cholera, to H1N1 and HIV/AIDS. We understand how quickly disease can spread and how swiftly a virus can wreak havoc on a community. Little did we know just how valuable those four decades of experience would become in the year 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world. While COVID-19 has devastated the world in many ways, it’s also brought out the best in humanity. Generosity, tenacity, collaboration and innovation are just a few of the qualities that have surfaced as the world has fought against this virus.
Over the last year, we’ve witnessed the awesome ability of our Medical Teams community to rise to the challenge of COVID-19. We saw an outpouring of generosity, from supporters giving their financial resources to volunteers giving their time. We were reminded of the courage of our frontline workers – both in the U.S. and around the world – who continued to show up to care for others, even when their own lives were at risk. We saw our office staff work overtime to innovate quickly, form new partnerships, and rework entire programs to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
At every turn, as every new need emerged, people like you showed up. Below are just a few of the many ways our community cared for people in crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Provided COVID-19 Screening and Testing
As cases began to explode in the Pacific Northwest in early March, our U.S. Programs teams quickly converted mobile dental vans to provide COVID-19 testing support. Over the year, they sent vans across Washington and Oregon to expand testing, especially to high-risk populations, like migrant workers, Native American communities and people experiencing homelessness. Our teams around the world also quickly pivoted to begin screening people in refugee camps and remote villages. In the last year, our teams have performed 1.94 million screenings globally and tested more than 25,000 people in the Pacific Northwest.
2. Donated Critical Personal Protective Equipment
Early on in the pandemic, one of the most frightening realizations was that our frontline workers were severely under-resourced with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). For people like doctors, nurses and police officers – people interacting directly with COVID-19 patients – masks, face shields and gloves became even more critical. When the need surfaced, we raided our warehouse and mobile dental vans to hand over masks and gloves to frontline workers. In total, we shipped 49,000 masks, 21,000 gloves, 2,500 gowns and 6,400 safety glasses to local hospitals. In the U.S., those hospitals included Providence, UW Emergency Department, Evergreen Hospital and St. Charles Hospital. Internationally, we shipped PPE to Guatemala, Lebanon and Uganda, where PPE was hard to come by. We also made sure healthcare workers had access to training on how to use PPE effectively.
3. Shared COVID-19 Prevention Messaging
For communities without advanced medical care, the best way to defend against the deadly effects of COVID-19 is through prevention. Over the last year, Community Health Workers – people who are trusted sources of information within their communities – were trained to share prevention messaging. Sometimes this looked like Community Health Workers walking through communities with megaphones to share prevention measures. Other times, this meant going home to home to explain the importance of social distancing and handwashing. They also shared messages about where to access testing, how to self-isolate and where to get care if symptoms became severe. Thousands of lives were likely been spared suffering thanks to the tireless efforts of Medical Teams’ Community Health Workers.
4. Built COVID-19 Isolation and Treatment Centers
In crowded camps, it is critical to have treatment centers dedicated to COVID-19 patients. In May 2020, we converted a clinic in Kutupalong Refugee Camp – the world’s largest refugee camp – to a 50-bed COVID-19 unit to treat mild and moderate cases. We equipped and staffed the clinic so refugees with COVID-19 have somewhere to receive treatment inside the camp.
In Guatemala, we built three isolation units in the health districts of Chicamán, La Taña and La Parroquia, and one COVID-19 clinic in a hospital in Uspantan.
5. Distributed Handwashing Stations
In some of the places we work, even simple precautions like handwashing are difficult. Clean water is hard to find and handwashing systems are nonexistent. In Guatemala, we provided handwashing stations to over 1,600 households.
6. Continued to Provide Urgent Dental Care
While some of our Mobile Dental vans transitioned to provide COVID-19 testing, the rest of the fleet continued to provide urgent dental care. Dental pain – like many other urgent health concerns – didn’t go away just because there was a pandemic happening. We continued to provide emergency dental care for at-risk populations – screening them for COVID-19 ahead of their visit – while keeping them from taking up vital space in emergency rooms.
7. Continued to Provide Life-saving Medical Care
All around the world – in Guatemala, Colombia, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Uganda and Tanzania – people in crisis continued to need medical care. Whether it was a child suffering from malnutrition, a mother enduring a difficult birth or a baby with malaria, COVID-19 didn’t stop our frontline workers from working every day to heal people who are hurting.
We are currently preparing to support vaccination campaigns in the Pacific Northwest and in our global programs. We will partner with governments and local authorities to deliver the vaccine. We will also focus on sensitizing communities on the safety and importance of the vaccines.
Because much of our work involves caring for vulnerable populations, we are committed to advocating for ethical COVID-19 vaccination campaigns that provide equitable access to vulnerable people across the globe.
None of the work of the past year to fight this pandemic would have been possible without you. Thank you for your generosity during this time of incredible need.
Give a gift to help fight COVID-19 and help heal people in crisis.