Why We Do What We Do
Kristen Fanfant, MPH, Executive Director
We believe that everyone should feel safe, have food to eat, clean water to drink, and access to basic medicines and healthcare. Parents, regardless of where they live or their income, should not have to choose between buying food to keep their children from starving or medicines to treat their children when they get sick. That is why Medicines for Humanity (MFH) exists. At MFH, we are collaborating with dedicated in-country partners to ensure all children and families have accessible healthcare and medicines, peer support through Community Health Workers, proper nutrition and holistic services to survive and thrive.
It’s not only communities who need this support; it’s also MFH’s staff. Our staff members face the same concerns as others in their community, and they work to serve others despite any hardship. For example, in Haiti our Country Coordinator, Dusson St. Jean, faces danger every time he walks out the door. He risks getting mugged, kidnapped or stopped by gang members on his way to our partner health clinics. But he still goes to work. He is motivated to serve his community and bring about positive change. Our other Haiti staff do the same. All of them remain steadfastly committed to the mission, while continuing to be concerned about the safety of their families. Similarly, Gassim Kunda, MFH’s Sudan Technical Advisor, is struggling to keep his family safe in the middle of the recent war in Sudan between the military and rebel groups. He is also in constant communication with our partners throughout the country to assess their needs during this heartbreaking conflict situation.
MFH’s team across Africa experiences similar challenges. Our Cameroon Country Coordinator, Olivia Ambang, supports partners managing health program amidst rebel troop violence daily. She works with partners to provide basic medical care and psychosocial support for families who fled violence and are living in the forest. Gray Kawimbe, MFH’s Zambia Country Coordinator, supports partners in Zambia and Malawi treating an influx of patients with cholera after the widespread outbreak in Southern Africa and cyclones in Malawi.
I am inspired by our staff and partners every day. I am motivated by their commitment to serve their communities while being vigilant about their own and their families’ safety. I am inspired by the mother who seeks prenatal services to give her baby the best start to life and by the father who brings his child to the health center to treat his respiratory infection. I am also grateful to all of you reading this. Your support and your compassion for those less fortunate is also inspiring. It reinforces our resolve to make a difference and reminds me why we do what we do.
Chaos and War Breaks Out in Sudan
Terrified Sudanese have been trapped in their homes as fighting between the military and paramilitary troops began April 15th and continues to increase in the capital, Khartoum, and surrounding areas. Tens of thousands have been fleeing, taking whatever belongings they can carry, as they desperately try to get out of the conflict areas with their families. Men, women, and children can be seen leaving with luggage, some on foot, others crowding into vehicles.
Although the military and its paramilitary rival have agreed to strike a truce, several attempts at deescalating the conflict and violence have collapsed. The continual fighting has left hundreds of people dead and thousands injured. Loud gunfire continues to shake the capital city of Khartoum, and witnesses have reported airstrikes, tank fire, and mass troop movements. A U.S. diplomatic convoy and European Union homes have been attacked. The violence continues to expand throughout the country in Darfur, El Obeid and Merowe.
Desperate Sudanese families have been running out of food and other supplies as they shelter in their homes from the gun battles, bombardment and airstrikes on the streets outside. Hospitals have been attacked, damaged and forced to close or have been overwhelmed by the wounded, with staff exhausted and medical supplies depleted. Increasingly, armed fighters have turned to looting shops and robbing anyone who dares step outside. Some MFH and partner staff have been trapped in their homes, The Bishop of El Obeid’s residence was invaded. The Our Lady Queen of Africa Cathedral was attacked and hit by rocket fire.
Medicines for Humanity (MFH) remains steadfast in our commitment to help our in-country partners and the Sudanese people in the communities that we serve together. MFH works with in-country partners through a health systems strengthening project and through our online training program, Learning for Humanity. These partners and others include the Dioceses of El Obeid, Good Shepherd Sisters in El Obeid, the Mother Bakhita Sisters in El Obeid and Khartoum, the Sacred Heart Sisters in Khartoum, and the Missionary of Charity Sisters (Sisters of Mother Teresa) and community clinics in the Nuba Mountains.
We have been in contact with the Bishop of El Obeid, the Sisters, and our in-country coordinator to assess everyone’s safety and determine their needs. The Bishop and Sisters have told us that there is immediate need for food, water, medications, basic medical supplies, hygiene supplies, cooking gas, and water filters. As the conflict continues there will be need for security enhancements for the Sisters’ convents and clinics, shelter for families fleeing violence, refrigerators for storing food, medications and vaccines, solar panels to provide power when electricity is limited, and more. Donors have offered their support and we are working to get emergency relief supplies to those who desperately need them. Our hearts go out to everyone affected.
If you can help and are able to donate, please donate here.
Small Pharmacies Make a Big Difference in the Dominican Republic
Imagine being awakened by the sound of your toddler coughing and crying. You realize that you need to get medicine right away to help your baby and reduce her fever, but the nearest pharmacy is several miles away over rutted dirt roads. Between the cost of paying someone to take you there and the cost of the medicine at the commercial pharmacy, it is all too difficult to consider.
This is reality for many parents who live in low-income, rural communities in the Dominican Republic (DR). Many times, lack of access to basic medicines can mean life and death to many vulnerable children.
Medicines for Humanity (MFH) has created a small pharmacy program in rural communities around San Pedro de Macoris (east of the capital). The program trains volunteers to identify and dispense basic medicines that can sometimes make a critical difference. MFH provides training, small pharmacy cabinets that are installed in the homes of the volunteers, and oversees the supply chain of medicines. One small pharmacy cabinet stocked with medicines can serve approximately 150 families. This program is providing essential medications to improve maternal and child health in these communities.
MFH staff member Elisa Avila is the DR Country Coordinator and directs the small pharmacies project. She tells us, “The medicines are basic, but they’re essential to prevent illnesses, saving children’s lives and those of others. The pharmacies are small but each one provides a very important service to many people.”
Most of the volunteers who manage these small pharmacies are already trained Community Health Workers who serve their villages. Yajiro Castro from the community of Paloma, outside of Quisqueya in the San Pedro region, tells us that “desperate parents of sick children would pawn household items to afford transportation to the nearest town pharmacy and the cost of the medicines. Now they won’t have to do that.” Another volunteer, Stefanie Puentes Sosa, explained the travel challenge in her community. “It is very difficult whether it is raining or even if it is dry because the only way in or out is over rough, rutted dirt roads. When it rains, the roads fill with water.” Having access to medicines nearby 24/7 means so much. Community Health Workers can also stock additional medications specific to the needs of their communities. For example, one pharmacy began stocking medications needed for hypertension in pregnant women. This kind of medication reduces the chance of a pregnant woman developing eclampsia.
By May 2024, will have trained a total of 20 Community Health Workers to each manage a small pharmacy in their community.
About the Need in the Dominican Republic:
Even though the Dominican Republic has made considerable strides to reduce maternal and child mortality rates across the country, significant disparities still exist between rural and urban populations and communities of divergent economic status. Country wide, 28 of every 1,000 children do not live to their fifth birthday, 23 out of 1,000 live births do not survive the first month of life, and 95 of 100,000 women die during from pregnancy-related causes. The majority of these infant and child deaths occur in rural, marginalized communities, like the bateyes in San Pedro de Macoris. Newborn babies are susceptible to infections and respiratory problems that, if not immediately addressed, lead to death. The health of newborn babies is also directly related to the health of pregnant mothers, including their nutritional status and the amount of prenatal care they receive.
If you would like to help Medicines for Humanity train more Community Health Workers and install more small pharmacies, please donate online here.
Save the Date!
Medicines for Humanity has several exciting events planned for this year. Proceeds from events support MFH maternal and child survival projects around the world. We invite you to join us.