World Faces Greatest Refugee Crisis Since World War II

Portland, OR—United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson Melissa Fleming today served as keynote speaker for the sold-out Healthy Women, Healthy World luncheon at the Multnomah Athletic Club. Medical Teams International holds the luncheon annually to celebrate the role women around the world play in improving the health of their communities.

Fleming is the author of “A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival.” The book tells the story of Doaa Al Zamel, a Syrian refugee cast adrift in the Mediterranean Sea after the dangerously overcrowded boat she and 500 other refugees were on sank. She rescued two orphaned babies from the ship, turning to prayer, song and hope to keep herself and the children alive while floating for days at sea.

“I hope through Doaa’s story I can build a bridge of empathy for these people, and that people will start caring and understanding why refugees like Doaa take these kinds of risks…why they deserve our compassion and our help,” Fleming said.

Martha Holley Newsome, president and CEO of Medical Teams International, said that the humanitarian community is facing the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. “Imagine 25 million refugees globally. In just the last minute, 24 people have been forced to flee their homes. By the end of today, the number will exceed 30,000,” she said.

 The Healthy Women, Healthy World luncheon is an annual event to champion women around the world—and aims to empower women who in turn empower their communities. Healthy Women, Healthy World members meet quarterly to learn about health crises facing women, then act through volunteerism, advocacy, and the creation of support programs to provide life-saving care for women.

 “Medical Teams works in partnership with people in their own communities, especially women, empowering them to manage and promote their own health,” Newsome said.

The luncheon also honored local businesswoman Janeen McAninch, CEO of Becker Capital Management, as Medical Teams International’s Portland Humanitarian Woman of the Year, for her unparalleled support of Medical Teams International.

Janeen McAninch said: “It has been my biggest honor to help those in crisis when it mattered—and to share that with my family. Medical Teams makes it possible for volunteers like me to have a significant effect on life-saving care in times of crisis.”

Medical Teams International is a Pacific Northwest-based nonprofit bringing life-saving medical care to people in crisis, with specific focus on refugee crises, natural disasters, and mothers and children.


About Medical Teams International
Founded in 1979, Medical Teams International provides life-saving medical care for people in crisis, such as survivors of natural disasters and refugees. We care for the whole person— physical, emotional, social and spiritual. Daring to love like Jesus, we serve all people—regardless of religion, nationality, sex or race. Because every person—no matter where they are or how desperate their situation—matters. Find Medical Teams International at and on social media using @medicalteams.

Additional Press on Melissa Fleming:
TED Talk:

The Guardian reviews A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea:

Newsweek: Melissa Fleming’s New Book Puts a Human Face on Syria’s Tragedy: