Maternal Health in Cox’s Bazar: The Impact of Mother’s Clubs

Maternal Health in Cox’s Bazar: The Impact of Mother’s Clubs

By Emma Ackerman, MedGlobal Communications & Advocacy Intern

Last June in the Somitipara neighborhood of Cox’s Bazar, 20 year old Nazia* died in her home after enduring four days of severe labor pain during her first pregnancy. Her family was one of many unable to pay for transportation to a hospital or services of a skilled birth attendant.

The Somitipara neighborhood of Cox’s Bazar, also known as “Kutubdiapara,” is inhabited by an estimated 40,000 Bangladeshi internally displaced people (IDPs). Most residents are illiterate and live in extreme poverty, relying largely on the dry fishing business and rickshaw pulling for income. With an average daily income of an estimated $5.90 USD, the vast majority of residents are unable to afford even the most basic necessities- including medical care and adequate nutrition. Despite being located only 4.8 km (2.9 miles) outside of Cox’s Bazar proper, few health facilities or community health workers are available in the Somitipara neighborhood. Only 0.2 nurses and 0.5 doctors are available for every 1,000 Bangladeshi residents. Most people can’t afford medical expenses or even transportation to the few existing facilities.

Women of reproductive age, particularly pregnant mothers, and newborns are disproportionately impacted by the lack of available health care and education. Poverty has created heartbreaking conditions and exacerbated health risks for women of Cox’s Bazar. A recent Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey found that 90% of women go through labor in their own homes and 36% do so without the services of a trained health worker or midwife. Impoverished families often feel pressure to marry their daughters early in order to improve their economic situation. According to data collected by the Local Counselor office in Somitipara, on average girls are married by the time they reach 15. Child marriage increases chances for complications or even death during delivery for mothers and newborns. For Bangladeshi women ages 15-49, maternal mortality is the third leading cause of death. Three hundred women out of 100,000 die giving birth in Somitipara- a maternal mortality rate that is 44% higher than the national average of Bangladesh.

MedGlobal has worked in Cox’s Bazar since 2017, as part of our overall mission to reduce health disparities. In February 2021, MedGlobal established a Maternity & Birthing Center in order to increase access to free maternity, birthing, and neonatal services in the underserved community of Somitipara, Cox’s Bazar. Part of the Maternity & Birthing Center operations includes facilitating Mother’s Club sessions for new and expectant mothers over 16 years old. These Mother’s Clubs educate women and girls in the catchment area of the Maternity & Birthing Center on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and encourage them to seek antenatal care and facility-based delivery. Topics of Mother’s Clubs sessions include:

  • Hand washing
  • Family planning and pre-birth planning
  • Period danger signs during pregnancy
  • Pregnant mothers’ activity
  • Nutrition during pregnancy
  • Pregnant mothers’ health care
  • MedGlobal Maternity & Birthing Center’s services
  • Deciding roles and responsibilities of family members during pregnancy
  • Menstrual hygiene
  • Awareness of child marriage issues

Since the opening of the Maternity & Birthing Center on March 1, 2021, MedGlobal’s maternity team has formed 15 Mother’s Clubs, each with approximately 15-20 members. Each club meets at least twice a month for 20-25 minute sessions. So far, nearly 60 sessions have been held across Somitipara. The clubs are coordinated by a President and a Secretary, both of which are community members. Doctors and midwives of MedGlobal’s Maternity & Birthing Center present the health education materials during meetings and encourage open communication and connection among each club’s members.

Establishment and implementation of the Mother’s Clubs have not always been smooth sailing. MedGlobal staff members have faced numerous challenges throughout the implementation process. Some of the challenges include stigmas & superstition that can impact care seeking behavior, family pressure, and shyness. Project Coordinator Kazi Morjina feels that community engagement is the avenue to overcoming these challenges and is the most impactful aspect of the Mother’s Clubs.

“Community women know our midwives and midwife assistants. Community mothers like our team members. By gaining trust and giving the best 24/7 quality services and disseminating our service related information whenever community mothers come to seek healthcare services, community mothers can get sustainable care in the long-term.”

-Kazi Morjina

MedGlobal’s Mother’s Clubs aim to impact the long-term health of Somitipara neighborhood residents. According to Kazi Morjina, community members previously unable to access health care and unaware of MedGlobal services are now actively seeking out facility-based health services and spreading community awareness. When asked about the power of these Mother’s Clubs, Kazi Morjina shared the inspiring story of Noor*:

“She is very poor. Her husband left her when she conceived their third child. She has no family. She stays here at Somitipara alone with her two children. When our Mother’s Club reached Somitipara, she willingly came to be a regular member. She got to know  about our services and she became our patient. She is happy to have us because she has no one else beside her. Our midwives gave her the confidence that they would be with her until her delivery. She kept trust in our team and gave birth to a baby girl at midnight at our Maternity & Birthing Center in July. Our whole team supported her as much as her family.”

-Kazi Morjina

Increasing reproductive health education and awareness through programs like these Mother’s Clubs is vital for improving the long-term health for pregnant women, new mothers, and future generations of Cox’s Bazar.

*names changed for anonymity

Field Operations Update for November 2020

Each month, MedGlobal publishes a monthly Field Operation Update, highlighting our humanitarian and health programs around the world. MedGlobal supports healthcare in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Gaza, Greece, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, and has been contributing to the COVID-19 response in the United States. These monthly blog posts provide a snapshot of some of our most notable program updates from the past month. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

Bangladesh

In collaboration with Prantic and OBAT Helpers, MedGlobal provided a major distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, and other health and hygiene equipment to health clinics in Cox’s Bazar. This medical distribution is supporting Rohingya refugees in the camps, as well as the Bangladeshi community in Cox’s Bazar town. The medical equipment included the most critically needed supplies to prevent and respond to the spread of COVID-19, including oxygen concentrators, portable ventilators, over 700 PPE sets, infrared thermometers, and more. This distribution also included 7 handwashing stands that went to the host community in Cox’s Bazar. They are stationed at various high-traffic areas, such as outside temples and public toilet spots.

Gaza 

The rapid spread of COVID-19 in Gaza continued into November. In partnership with Rahma Worldwide, MedGlobal provided a shipment of 75,400 PPE items as well as sanitizing supplies to the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Gaza in November. MedGlobal’s Gaza Program Manager Raja commented, “As COVID-19 continues to spread so rapidly in Gaza, masks and other PPE are critical to protect the few health workers available to treat those affected.”

MedGlobal also continues to support the salaries of staff in Kamal Adwan Hospital’s Pediatric ICU Department. This month, MedGlobal increased the number of staff we’re supporting to 20 doctors and nurses. This emergency pediatrics department is critical, particularly as the people in Gaza are cut off from external healthcare, and its medical staff have saved over 100 children’s lives. Gaza is home to two million Palestinians, nearly 80% of whom rely on humanitarian assistance and live in overcrowded areas with poor living conditions.

Lebanon

MedGlobal has continued its medical response in Beirut, aimed at supporting overwhelmed health facilities facing increased levels of medical need and a medication shortage in Lebanon. In partnership with Baitulmaal, MedGlobal delivered two rounds of medications to the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, which will provide critical treatment for hundreds of patients facing emergency health issues as well as non-communicable diseases. During the distribution, our Lebanon team commented: “They have been out of stock of some of these medicines for quite some time, and they are life-saving.”

Syria

In northwest Syria, there are now between 300-500 new confirmed COVID-19 cases each day. With a health system destroyed from war, local health workers warn that a health catastrophe may be imminent. MedGlobal, alongside our partners Rahma Worldwide and Violet Organization, began the installation of two major oxygen generators: one in Idlib City and one in Darkoush, northwest Syria. These generators will help supply health facilities, especially those leading in COVID-19 treatment, with critically-needed oxygen. Health facilities in northwest Syria have been facing an increasing demand for oxygen cylinders with the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 patients who face severe symptoms, including difficulty breathing. This oxygen supply will have a lasting impact for local communities.

In addition, MedGlobal continued its distribution of 200 oxygen concentrators and 100 CPAP/ BIPAP machines in partnership with local independent NGOs throughout Syria, including to Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Latakia, Hama, Zabadani, Bludan, and Safita. The provision of oxygen and these non-invasive ventilators are critical for people with difficulty breathing, primarily those suffering from severe COVID-19 symptoms. MedGlobal is also distributing 2,500 pulse oximeters, devices to measure the level of oxygen in your blood, which were also requested as critical based on local needs assessments.

United States 

Domestically, MedGlobal is committed to supporting health facilities that focus on supporting particularly marginalized and underserved communities. These communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 with both higher rates of infection and mortality from the virus. In November, Illinois saw a spike in COVID-19, with the daily rates consistently over 10,000 new cases and 100 deaths per day. Hospitals became increasingly stretched then. In November, MedGlobal donated an additional 1,000 PPE items to Saint Anthony Hospital in Chicago to help with their COVID-19 response. Saint Anthony Hospital is a safety-net hospital that primarily treats underserved communities of immigrants, people of color, and those facing economic hardship.

Stories from Our Health Clinic Serving Rohingya Refugees

Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar have survived horrific violence and forced displacement in Myanmar, and are now facing the devastating effects of COVID-19 in the world’s most densely concentrated refugee camp. MedGlobal has been working in Cox’s Bazar since 2017, serving more than 130,000 Rohingya refugees and vulnerable members of the Bangladesh host community alongside dedicated local partners OBAT Helpers and Prantic. Our health clinic provides a wide range of health services, including pediatrics, family planning, women’s health, and management of chronic conditions like diabetes.

Before and during the pandemic, local Rohingya and Bangladeshi health workers have stepped up to serve their communities and help MedGlobal maintain strong core health services.  

Here are the stories of 8 of our patients and incredible health workers in the clinic. 

1. Meet Dr. Sanzida, who works at the clinic’s emergency room and treats children in the pediatrics department. One of the incredible health workers at our clinic is Dr. Sanzida, who works at the clinic’s emergency room primarily treating burns and cuts. She also treats children in the pediatrics department, counseling them and providing advice about personal hygiene options. Her words say it all:

“Healthcare is one of the most important basic needs for human beings. Rohingya refugees have a right to receive health services.”

2. Meet Yasmin, a 13-year-old patient. In the most densely populated refugee camp in the world, access to health services is critical. Thirteen-year-old Yasmin is one of our patients in Bangladesh. When she came into the clinic after cutting open her foot, she said to the health staff: 

“I know doctors here will reduce my pain.”

3. Meet Shahida, a local midwife. Shahida has been working as a midwife in the clinic since 2018. She serves Rohingya refugees, providing critical family planning and reproductive health services to patients. Her outreach, work with, and care for pregnant patients is invaluable. Shahida recently spoke about an increase in requests for family planning services as more information became available within the community:

 “Earlier there was some resistance around using family planning methods. Now, with more information, the situation is changing.”

4. Dr. Junayed, a dental surgeon. Dr. Junayed is a dental surgeon working at our Cox’s Bazar health clinic. There are limited dental facilities in the Rohingya refugee camps, so Dr. Junayed attends to patients of all ages facing severe dental problems. His work is critical, and often life-saving. He said: 

“We leave the clinic every evening, knowing that tomorrow, another full day awaits us.”

5. Here is Asma and her little brother Ashikur. Our Cox’s Bazar clinic supports Rohingya refugee children like Asma and her baby brother Ashikur with free health services. Our health staff believe that every child deserves healthcare. Asma recently told us: 

“My mother always comes to this clinic when Ashikur cries. Magically he stops crying after we visit the clinic.”

6. This is Nasima and her newborn baby. Nasima is a 20-year-old patient at our clinic in Bangladesh. She received health services at our clinic throughout her pregnancy, and now she comes in for postnatal care. Here she is visiting with her 16-day-old baby boy. She said: 

“I have visited this clinic during my pregnancy, and doctors here are very supportive. This clinic is very good for babies.”

7. This is Helal, who works in the clinic’s pharmacy. Helal, who is 27-years-old, has been working at the clinic’s pharmacy for the last four years, supporting patients and dispensing medicine. He is passionate about ensuring patient safety: 

“I think my role here is really important. I have to explain the doses of medicine properly, otherwise it could be dangerous for patients.”

8. This is Dr. Rahana – a physician serving numerous patients, who is also the Clinic Coordinator. MedGlobal is lucky to have Dr. Rahana oversee the clinic options, as well as serving patients, primarily those who are seeking treatment for non-communicable diseases. She has cared for countless Rohingya refugee patients. Dr. Rahana recently told us:

“Healthcare, like food, water, clothing, shelter, sanitation, and education, is a human right. As a humanitarian healthcare provider, I would like to tell the world: please don’t forget about Rohingya refugees. They need justice. They are in a situation where they have only bad flashbacks.”

Climate Change: Creating and Exacerbating Humanitarian Crises

By Andrew Moran, Policy and Advocacy Intern at MedGlobal

The year 2020 will be remembered as the year COVID-19 swept across the world, crippling health systems and creating economic and political crises. However, the devastating and compounding effects of climate change will undoubtedly define the twenty-first century. One of the predicted effects of a shifting climate will be even higher levels of mass displacement and instability around the world. Refugees, migrants, and other vulnerable populations that lack the resources to withstand climate crises will inevitably suffer the most.

In many regions already facing dire humanitarian crises, heavy rains and longer monsoon seasons are causing historic flooding. The MedGlobal field teams in Bangladesh, Sudan, and Yemen are witnessing this firsthand. In July, one-third of Bangladesh was submerged under water, affecting over 4.7 million people. MedGlobal’s report In the Eye of the Cyclone warns that the 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar live in low-lying areas that are prone to flooding and mudslides. This places them at high risk of both displacement and contracting water-borne illnesses. Nationwide flooding in Sudan has created similar dangers. In September, Sudan’s government declared a state of emergency after weeks of deadly flooding physically isolated communities and left half a million people homeless. MedGlobal’s Program Manager for Sudan, Abduelsamad Abdalla Ahmed, reported on the flooding in Khartoum saying:

“The floods in Sudan are the worst they’ve been in thirty years. Not only are the floods displacing and killing people, but we are very worried about an outbreak of diseases. The situation is out of control.”

Widespread flooding in war-torn Yemen, where 80% of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, has also exacerbated the health crisis. Since 2017, powerful monsoon seasons and massive flooding has contributed to over 2.1 million cases of cholera. Dr. Nahla Arishi, a pediatrician in Aden, noted in MedGlobal’s recent report A Tipping Point for Yemen’s Health System that flooding also hindered the COVID-19 response as many Yemenis misattributed their coronavirus symptoms to flood-related diseases. Like in Bangladesh and Sudan, the people of Yemen have also suffered mass displacement. As of August, over 300,000 people, many of whom were previously displaced and living in extreme poverty, have lost their homes due to flooding. Moving forward, as climate change continues to intensify annual monsoon seasons, once-in-a-century floods may occur every decade and the lives of millions of people may literally be washed away.

A warming planet has also exacerbated food insecurity for millions of people and raised the spectre of entire regions becoming inhospitable. For many crops and livestock, as temperatures rise, the overall production and nutritional quality of the food falls. In 2012, unprecedented droughts among major food exporters caused food prices in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa to double and triple. This has dire consequences for low-income households that often spend up to 75% of their income on food. Furthermore, a report by the World Bank estimates that global crop yields may fall 5% by 2030 which, compounded with the burden of intensified natural disasters and disease outbreaks, will push 100 million people into poverty. Millions more may be forced to abandon their homes as climate change makes them uninhabitable. By the end of the century, heat waves during the summer months may transform parts of the tropics and the Middle East into areas unable to sustain human life. Mass migrations have already begun and over one billion people are expected to be displaced by 2050.

There is no quick, easy, or single solution to avoid the calamitous effects of climate change that we are on course to encounter. It is essential, therefore, to prepare for the mass displacements and humanitarian crises that climate change will create and exacerbate. Many of the countries where MedGlobal works are already grappling with the effects of climate change. While it is critical for the international community to ultimately find the willpower and ingenuity to avert the worst effects of climate change, investing in climate resistant infrastructure, adapting operations, and developing extensive response networks as part of our work is crucial for long-term engagement.

This blog post was written by Andrew Moran, Policy and Advocacy Intern at MedGlobal. Andrew has a BA in Political Science from Yale University.

3 years ago, MedGlobal was born

By Dr. Zaher Sahloul, MedGlobal President and Co-Founder

Three years ago, I was in Yemen with three other medical volunteers, providing internal medicine and pediatrics services to people suffering from the effects of war and famine. MedGlobal had just been formed. In between medical consultations, we talked about the goals for the future of our organization, dedicated to providing innovative healthcare to crisis-affected and low-resource areas.

But I could have never predicted how many people we would reach in just three years.

  • In the last three years, we have:
  • Served more than 204,700 patients all around the world.
  • Provided local health facilities with more than $16.2 million in medical supplies, equipment, and assistance.
  • Mobilized 455 health volunteers from 26 countries to provide their skills in medical trainings and consultations for areas most in need.
  • Expanded our operations to serve the most vulnerable communities in 14 countries: Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Gaza, Greece, Kurdistan in Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, the United States, Venezuela, and Yemen.

Your support has made this possible.

I also never could have predicted this difficult moment in time – six months into a global pandemic, seeing record daily increases in COVID-19. Our countries of operation have been hit with new and ongoing crises: a devastating fire on Lesvos Island, Greece, just burned the Moria refugee camp to the ground; the explosion in Beirut created a new humanitarian emergency; Sudan and Bangladesh are experiencing record-breaking floods; and the protracted conflicts in Syria and Yemen have led to unthinkable suffering. We still have a lot of work to do.

Every day, however, I am inspired by you – my health colleagues, community members, and supporters from around the world. You remind me that our organization’s mission is possible: to create a world without healthcare disparity.

Your support is the reason our services and health programs have grown so quickly in just three years – imagine what we can do together in the next three. Join us in supporting critical and innovative health services.

Thank you for being part of the MedGlobal community.

In solidarity,

Dr. Zaher Sahloul
MedGlobal President and Co-Founder

Press Release: MedGlobal Deeply Concerned about First Coronavirus Cases in Rohingya Refugee Camps

May 14, 2020

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – MedGlobal is deeply concerned following reports of the first diagnoses of COVID-19 in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The impact of a large-scale COVID-19 outbreak in the densely populated camps would be catastrophic for already vulnerable refugees and host communities. 

There are over 913,000 Rohingya refugees living in camps in Bangladesh on the Myanmar border, who already suffer from a lack of sanitation facilities and a shortage of soap, poor water quality, and lack of access to medical care. The camps are densely populated, with approximately 40,000 refugees per square kilometer. In such crowded conditions, social distancing is not feasible. 

According to the Health Sector, as of May 13 there are 120 patients confirmed to have COVID-19 in Cox’s Bazar district, including 6 health care workers and 3 health facility staff, though until today there had been no confirmed cases within the camps. As of May 13, there have only been 108 tests for Rohingya refugees conducted in the camps. A recent report from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Humanitarian Health predicted that a large-scale outbreak is highly likely after a single introduction of the virus into the camps. 

Dr. Zaher Sahloul, president and co-founder of MedGlobal, said, “Now that COVID-19 has entered the Rohingya refugee camps, we fear that it may spread at an alarming rate based on prediction models. An immediate response is needed from the international community to stop preventable deaths. These communities must not be forgotten.”

MedGlobal has been working in Cox’s Bazar since 2017, serving more than 102,000 Rohingya refugees and vulnerable members of the Bangladesh host community. MedGlobal runs a permanent clinic in the Kutupalong refugee camp and provides primary care, emergency care for children, and treatment for those with chronic illnesses. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, MedGlobal has prioritized infection prevention and control, leading COVID-19 response training for field staff, developing emergency triage procedures and clinical management protocols, and launching a series of mental health webinars for health workers. Our clinic staff initiated health education sessions for patients on the topics of handwashing, social isolation, and identifying COVID-19 symptoms. 

“Rohingya refugees have faced ethnic cleansing, forced displacement, and overcrowded conditions in the world’s largest refugee settlement. MedGlobal urges all of our partners and supporters to stand with them now as they face a COVID-19 outbreak, and support them with critically needed medical resources,” said Dr. Hena Ibrahim, MedGlobal Executive Director.

MedGlobal is working with urgency to provide critically needed medical supplies to health workers and patients in the Cox’s Bazar camps, particularly personal protective equipment (PPE). Join us in supporting Rohingya refugees at this critical moment.

For media inquiries, contact MedGlobal’s Advocacy Advisor Kat Fallon at [email protected].

Press Release: MedGlobal Calls for Foreign Medical Doctors to be Granted Licenses to Help in COVID-19 Response

Washington, DC – MedGlobal thanks Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey for signing Executive Order No. 112 which grants temporary U.S. licenses to doctors who are licensed and in good standing in foreign countries. 

This Executive Order for New Jersey is a critical step in enabling foreign medical professionals to assist in the urgent and extensive response to COVID-19 in the United States. As of April 1, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 186,101 cases and 3,603 deaths from the virus in the U.S. 

MedGlobal urges all governors to authorize similar executive orders, granting temporary US medical licenses to doctors who are licensed in foreign countries. 

“During times of disasters, it is expected that policy makers modify public policies in order to save more lives. Now, with the U.S. at the epicenter of this global pandemic, we are suffering from a shortage of medical professionals that may get even worse as more patients and healthcare workers get exposed to or infected with COVID-19,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, President of MedGlobal. “It is vital that US-based foreign doctors (IMGs) – who are able to use their skills to save lives – are granted licenses to practice medicine across the U.S. during this dangerous pandemic.” 

MedGlobal provides free healthcare and life-saving medication to vulnerable communities across the world, including Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, displaced Venezuelan in Colombia, refugees in Greece, and victims of wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Gaza. These communities are bracing for a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak. MedGlobal is scaling up its work during this time with an international COVID-19 response, including providing medical supplies, ventilators, medical technology for Intensive Care Units, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers in Gaza, Syria, Yemen, Bangladesh, and beyond. Our volunteers and local staff are honored to serve these communities, and we implore all U.S. governors to grant foreign doctors the ability to offer the same care and solidarity to COVID-19 patients here in the U.S. 

MedGlobal‌ ‌Calls‌ ‌For‌ ‌Urgent‌ ‌COVID-19‌ ‌Response‌ ‌for‌ ‌Refugees‌ ‌and‌ ‌Displaced‌ ‌Persons‌

March 20, 2020

In the midst of the deadly global COVID-19 pandemic, MedGlobal urges immediate and urgent action to support refugees, displaced persons, and the most vulnerable communities. MedGlobal warns of the potential for a catastrophic impact of the dangerous virus on refugees and other vulnerable communities, and commits itself to adapting programs in the most effective ways to meet their needs. 

“While the global health community and countries are busy with curbing the spread of COVID-19, let us not forget the refugees and the displaced,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, President and Co-founder of MedGlobal. “It is our humanitarian duty, and the right thing to do, to prevent catastrophic morbidity and mortality in a population that is unable to deal with the pandemic effectively.”

There are over 70 million refugees and forcibly displaced persons in the world. They will be the hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many are confined to cramped environments like overcrowded camps or communities in urban areas where disease can rapidly spread. The majority do not have access to basic preventive measures like clean water, soap, cleaning solutions, sufficient sanitation facilities, or the ability to social distance or self-isolate. Refugees and displaced persons are made even more vulnerable by the lack of access to testing, limited access to sufficient medical care like Intensive Care Units in case they contract COVID-19, and damaged or destroyed health infrastructure as a result of conflict. These conditions could easily facilitate the rapid spread of COVID-19, with a mortality rate predicted to be much higher than the general population. 

MedGlobal provides free healthcare and life-saving medication to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, displaced Venezuelan in Colombia, and refugees in Greece, in addition to local communities in Pakistan and victims of wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Gaza. These communities are bracing for a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak. 

The MedGlobal team is acting with urgency to support brave frontline health workers and vulnerable communities during this COVID-19 pandemic. To date, our team has taken the following steps to adapt our operations and respond to COVID-19:

  1. Emergency Needs Assessments: We are working with our teams and partners in Bangladesh, Colombia, Greece, Pakistan, Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria to compile emergency needs assessments to understand the current situation locally and respond in the most effective way for each setting. 
  2. Emergency Supplies and Triage Programs: Based on local needs, we are ramping up provision of medical supplies to support local health workers and communities, including soap, washing units, personal hygiene kits, and cleaning solutions; medications, ventilators, oxygen masks, and medical technology for Intensive Care Units; Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) including masks, gowns, gloves and eye shields. With top experts around the world, we are developing emergency triage programs in preparation for potential COVID-19 outbreaks. 
  3. New Prevention Measures for our Clinics: Our full-time clinics in Bangladesh and Colombia continue to function, with new infection control and prevention measures implemented in coordination with partners. 
  4. Clinical Resources: We are designing resources pertaining to COVID-19 tailored specifically to our field operations, including recommendations on infection control and prevention based on CDC, WHO and UNHCR data; clinical management of suspected cases; and emergency planning in the case of an outbreak.
  5. Educational Online Programs: We are planning webinars and educational programs for the general public, which aim to present the potential impact COVID-19 may have on refugee communities. Our first webinar on COVID-19 is Tuesday, March 24 from 9am-11am CST. 
  6. Mental Health Response: We are designing a mental health plan in the context of COVID-19, including a webinar for all staff wellbeing on coping with the COVID-19 threat and a webinar for field staff on how to support patients’ mental health during the pandemic.

MedGlobal will continue to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized, primarily communities of refugees, displaced persons, and others facing crises. We will continue to work with brave health workers across the globe to ensure that we are able to reach and support these communities, who must not be forgotten during this global pandemic. 

Join us in supporting health workers on the front lines, helping vulnerable communities preparing for COVID-19 outbreaks.

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How healthcare workers in under-resourced areas are benefiting from MedGlobal’s Helping Babies Breathe educational program

Helping Babies Breathe in Bangladesh

By Dr. Lia Harris, Helping Babies Survive Team Lead

Sustainable education; it is the purpose of the train-the-trainer model, which MedGlobal employs, through global partnerships, in developing countries and under-resourced areas.

MedGlobal Master Trainer and Helping Babies Breathe participants.

In June 2019, healthcare workers in Bangladesh were trained as Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) instructors by MedGlobal Master Trainers, in partnership with UNFPA. Participants took a two-day facilitator course and then led the HBB provider course under the supervision of Master Trainers. After completing the course, they graduated with facilitator (instructor) certificates.

In June 2019, healthcare workers in Bangladesh were trained as Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) instructors by MedGlobal Master Trainers, in partnership with UNFPA. Participants took a two-day facilitator course and then led the HBB provider course under the supervision of Master Trainers. After completing the course, they graduated with facilitator (instructor) certificates.

Now, under the supervision of UNFPA midwives, they moved on to lead courses in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to their colleagues who provide health care in the Rohingya refugee camp. 

MedGlobal will be returning to Cox’s Bazar in 2020 to mentor these exceptional midwives as Master Trainers. With these skills, they will be able to teach new instructor courses, thus ensuring the sustainability of Helping Babies Breathe education in Cox’s Bazar. With a grant from Laerdal Global Health, MedGlobal will continue to mentor, monitor and evaluate the training via telehealth technology. The greatest measure of the success of our training is we will never need to return to Cox’s Bazar.

Helping babies survive, one baby at a time. 

By Dr. Lia Harris

This heartwarming story is about our very own Bangladesh Field Coordinator, Maryam Molla. Maryam was trained as a Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) provider by HBB Master Trainer Volunteer, Dr. Henna Qureshi, in December 2018. Recently, she had the opportunity to use her skills.

A 5-month-old baby arrived at the clinic seizing, no one knew for how long. The baby had no prior history of seizures, fever, or any inciting event. The clinic team recognized the medical emergency; checking blood sugar, which was normal, and providing oxygen. They gave a dose of midazolam, the side effect of which, is known to be respiratory depression. Dr. Maryam knew this and prepared HBB resuscitation equipment. 

When the baby became drowsy and started to slow his breathing, she was prepared to use the bag-mask device to support his breathing. She did support his breathing, all the way down the hill to the ambulance, and during the entire bumpy ambulance ride to the hospital. When they arrived at the hospital, the baby’s seizure had stopped, and he began breathing again. He was admitted to the hospital for further diagnostics and treatment.

Do you know what Rohingya people do when someone is nearing death? They say very loudly, “there is no God other than Allah, verily I have been amongst the wrongdoers.” This baby’s parents were saying this all the while Dr. Maryam was supporting his breathing, but I am so happy to report that his life was saved that day, thanks to Dr. Maryam and her HBB skills. 

When the baby became drowsy and started to slow his breathing, she was prepared to use the bag-mask device to support his breathing. She did support his breathing, all the way down the hill to the ambulance, and during the entire bumpy ambulance ride to the hospital. When they arrived at the hospital, the baby’s seizure had stopped, and he began breathing again. He was admitted to the hospital for further diagnostics and treatment. Do you know what Rohingya people do when someone is nearing death? They say very loudly, “there is no God other than Allah, verily I have been amongst the wrongdoers.” This baby’s parents were saying this all the while Dr. Maryam was supporting his breathing, but I am so happy to report that his life was saved that day, thanks to Dr. Maryam and her HBB skills.

Helping Babies Breathe in Pakistan 

MedGlobal recently deployed an educational mission to Pakistan in November 2019. Along with local partner, Indus Hospital, MedGlobal and volunteers provided training to health care professionals in Helping Babies Breathe. A group of those participants was trained as instructors (Master Trainers).

Now, those Master Trainers are moving on to train their colleagues in the region, furthering the impact and sustainability of the MedGlobal HBB program.

To support our Helping Babies Breathe program – donate today!

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Updates on MedGlobal programs amid COVID-19 concerns

MedGlobal is closely monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19. We have suspended our short-term missions until further notice, however, our ongoing programs are operating to provide life-saving care and we are the front line of prevention in our Colombia & Bangladesh clinics.

  • Greece & Bangladesh: Our clinic is still operational and with our local partners we continue to see patients and provide much needed medical equipment and supplies.
  • Yemen: We are continuing to spend a $750k grant over the next few months in delivering medical aid and supplies.

“While the global health community and countries are busy with curbing the spread of the COVID-19, let us not forget the refugees and the displaced. It is our humanitarian duty and it is also the right thing to do to prevent catastrophic morbidity and mortality in a population that is unable to deal with the pandemic effectively.” – Dr. Zaher Sahloul

MedGlobal will continue the planning for future training and periodic missions to other countries and will incorporate Infectious Diseases and Critical Care specialists and COVID-19 training for all upcoming programs. 

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Volunteer Opportunity: MedGlobal clinic in Bangladesh, serving Rohingya refugees, in need of volunteers for 2020

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, currently hosts the world’s largest refugee camp, with more than 1.24 Million Rohingya in need of humanitarian assistance. We operate in a primary care clinic with our local partner, OBAT Helpers, and are in need of the following medical specialties:

  • Internal Medicine
  • Family Medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Emergency Medicine
  • General Medicine
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Physician Assistants

For more information, view our Bangladesh program page.

The clinic currently sees close to 2,000 Rohingya patients per week providing primary care, emergency care, free medications, and referrals. We are also working to establish training programs for the local and refugee populations.

It was a memorable trip. Witnessing first-hand the challenges and hardships Rohingya refugees are facing and witnessing the amazing humanitarian work being carried out by so many organizations for these refugees.” – Dr. Abdul, General Practitioner

WHEN DO WE NEED VOLUNTEERS?

Immediately! especially those with a multi-entry and/or NVR visa to Bangladesh.

January 2019 onwards – We are receiving applications from volunteers who are available for short (1 week) and longer-term deployments.

If you are interested in volunteering or have any questions about the deployment, please contact Becca Sheehy at [email protected].

Help us provide dignified healthcare and healing to Rohingya refugees

There are currently over 1.3 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, over 75% of them are women and children. Our medical volunteers and local doctors have served over 100,000 patients like Husna to date.

Help MedGlobal to heal and improve the health of Rohingya refugees.

  • $5 provides dignified healthcare to one patient. Sponsor treatment of 100 patients by donating $500.
  • $50 provides life-saving treatment to 25 children with pneumonia.
  • $100 provides 20 diabetic patients medicines for 1 month.
  • $7 provides life-saving care to one baby. Sponsor the care of 100 newborn babies by donating $700.

MedGlobal also sends volunteers to train local health care professionals in Helping Babies Breathe, an internationally recognized program aimed at reducing infant mortality by providing life-saving measures within the first minute of birth.

Help MedGlobal provide life-saving training programs to local healthcare professionals in Bangladesh! #HealingGlobally

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