by Tyler Graf
For the tired and sick, the scared and weary, those affected by conflict and poverty, the new year comes shrouded in mystery—the next 12 months are uncertain. But if we remember that hope overcomes fear, that medicine heals sickness, that knowledge empowers communities, and that faith invigorates the spirit, we know our path forward and can boldly break barriers to health in the new year. Here are the 18 ways that we will work to keep the world healthy in 2018.
Since their introduction into common medicine in the early 20th Century, vaccines have saved millions of lives throughout the world. Because they prevent diseases, vaccines are both effective and cheap, cutting health care costs wherever they're used.
The World Health Organization estimates that the measles vaccine alone has saved more than 20 million lives since 2000. Other serious diseases such as diphtheria and tuberculosis have also seen steep declines because of vaccination coverage. In today's world—where there are more refugees than ever before, millions of whom live in cramped, unhygienic conditions—vaccinations are invaluable in striking down disease outbreaks before they happen.
Visit a refugee settlement in Northern Uganda and you may meet Denis, a Medical Teams International health worker who specializes in immunizing South Sudanese refugees. His little syringes pack a powerful punch. And in 2018, they'll continue doing their job—saving lives.
2. Infant Survival Kits
These little brown boxes may seem nondescript. But look a little closer and you'll see how important they are.
Medical Teams International distributes Infant Survival Kits all over the world, wherever mothers need supplies to deliver their babies safely. The kits are cheap and effective, costing just $25 and ensuring that children have a safe start to life.
3. Health Information Program
Did you know that in southwest Uganda Medical Teams International has partnered with Cambia Health Solutions on a mobile app that tracks the health status of refugee patients? Developed by a joint IT team, the Health Information Program is works on Android devices and allows clinic workers to track diseases in real time, with all the information being stored in the digital cloud. No longer must health workers sift through mountains of paperwork. Using the app’s analytics, clinicians can even predict when outbreaks will happen.
4. Syrian Refugee Outreach Volunteers
Refugees are not helpless victims. Many were educated professionals, business owners, or students who fled violence and persecution because they had no other option. They are incredibly capable people who want nothing more than to make a difference in their new communities.
In Lebanon, teams of trained Syrians work as Refugee Outreach Volunteers—roving health workers who make home visits to educate their neighbors, check on vulnerable people and, when necessary, refer patients to a clinic Medical Teams supports.
Refugee Outreach Volunteers include women like Hind, a mother of two who fled Homs more than four years ago. She is dedicated to helping refugees receive health care. One of her sons is partially paralyzed from a kidney problem and needs a transplant. Hind spends her days helping older refugees who suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes.
5. Oral Rehydration Solution
Dehydration caused by diarrheal diseases is a leading cause of death among children in developing countries. But there is a simple solution: Oral Rehydration Solution.
This is a powerful combination of glucose, electrolytes, and sodium chloride. The solution enables a person’s intestines to efficiently absorb fluids over a more sustained period. It is the cheapest and most effective way of combating the scourge of dehydration.
6. Emergency Nutrition
Children in developing countries aren’t simply hungry—too many suffer from varying degrees of malnutrition, the result of not having the right types of nutritious food to eat. In the countries where Medical Teams International works, malnutrition is endemic, which is why we monitor the growth of children to make sure they’re healthy. When kids need a boost, emergency nutritional supplements are necessary.
In Uganda, we work with the World Food Program to distribute emergency supplements to kids like Monyjok, a little boy from South Sudan. Since being on the program, he has gained weight and energy.
7. Emergency Medical Services
In the United States, we take for granted that when we call 911 an ambulance will arrive with paramedics who will provide medical care on the way to the hospital. But in Myanmar and Nepal, where Medical Teams works with Emergency Medical Services responders, this has not been the case.
Working with local agencies in these countries, Medical Teams trains first responders on how to respond to emergencies, assess patients, and provide care on the way to hospitals.
8. Mothers' Groups
In developing countries, health and hygiene education is almost nonexistent, particularly in poor, rural communities. By bringing mothers together to learn about hygiene, the danger signs of certain illnesses, and what to do in the event of an emergency, you help these women gain insight into disease prevention.
9. Psychological Treatment in Turkey
War is traumatic—especially for children, who carry that trauma into adulthood. Psychological trauma is often called a hidden disease because the scars it leaves behind are hidden away from the untrained eye. Left untreated, psychological trauma will inhibit a person's growth and long-term happiness. In Turkey, we provide psychological treatment to the survivors of the Syrian civil war.
They’re like Aliaa, a 14-year-old Syrian girl who spent four months trying to reach Turkey with her family nearly two years ago. Once in Turkey, she became withdrawn, saddened by what she’d gone through and her life as a refugee. But after seeing a psychiatrist, he behavior improved. Now she's happy and productive.
10. Rohingya Volunteers
More than 620,000 ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are now living in cramped settlements in neighboring Bangladesh. Your supportallows foreign and Bangladeshi doctors and nurses to train refugees to be outreach volunteers, who go door-to-door educating their friends and neighbors on health problems. They also refer sick patients to clinics and hospitals and track illnesses as they arise.
These outreach volunteers are instrumental in preventing disease outbreaks in the settlements.
11. Anti-Malaria Efforts
Malaria doesn't have to be a way of life in Uganda. Through quick detection, clinic workers working in settlements dispense life-saving medicine to sick refugees every day.
Although malaria remains a top disease in Uganda, fast treatment effectively stops it in its tracks.
12. Shipping Medical Supplies
Many hospitals around the world don’t have access to basic equipment or medicine. In Guatemala, pregnant women must bring their own supplies for delivering their babies. In Syria, bombs target health facilities, decimating the infrastructure and everything that lies inside.
Without these shipments, children would go without their asthma medicine, amputees without wheel chairs or even crutches; there’d be no gauze, sutures, or birthing beds. Serving Asia, North America, South America, Eurasia, Africa, and the Middle East, these shipments represent your long arms, capable of stretching all over the globe to hug those in need.
13. Building Resilient Communities in Liberia
By partnering with community leaders in Liberia to identify health problems and solutions, we help entire communities take ownership over their health. This is incredibly important in Liberia, a country that was swept up in the Ebola epidemic just three years ago.
14. Supporting Primary Health Care Facilities
Imagine you had no place to go if your child contracted pneumonia, or if your mother broke her leg. How anxious and alone would you feel, how worried would you be that a treatable ailment could develop into something deadly?
Supporting Primary Health Centers remains incredibly important. In Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and elsewhere, you can help directly serve the sick by supporting health facilities.
15. Diarrhea Management
Diarrhea remains one of the top childhood illnesses around the world. Often caused by tainted water or food, diarrhea can kill children who do not receive treatment.
For Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, diarrheal diseases were such a problem that Medical Teams set up the first facility dedicated to its treatment. It serves thousands of refugees who have just recently found themselves displaced by fighting in neighboring Myanmar.
16. Mobile Dental Clinics
For 30 years, the Mobile Dental programhas served Pacific Northwest families who either lack insurance or access to dental care. By 2018, the program has grown to become the largest volunteer-powered mobile dental program in the country.
Without Mobile Dental, children like Mia wouldn't receive adequate and affordable care. Her family struggled to find a dentist who would see the girl before they discovered the Mobile Dental program, which was serving families in her neighborhood.
17. Disaster Kits
When disasters strike, home or abroad, disaster kits filled with blankets and hygiene supplies are waiting. These hygiene kits provide a respite from the cold and dirt. They provide some initial comfort to people blindsided by an unexpected catastrophe.
18. Volunteer Medical Professionals
Health is a team sport, especially when it comes to aiding underserved people. Volunteers embody Medical Teams' can-do spirit, providing essential health services that heal the sick, restore the weak, and empower entire communities to improve their living conditions. Taking time off from their family and jobs, volunteers travel the world, united by a shared vision: to bring health to a hurting world.
As we welcome 2018, we thank you for your support to make the world a healthier place.