Newsletter November 2022

MFH Turns 25!

It was October 1997 when Tim Bilodeau began a new non-profit organization to help save children’s lives from fatal illnesses that could be treated and prevented. That organization became Medicines for Humanity (MFH). Tim started out as a single entrepreneur, traveling to remote places where child mortality was high and conditions were tough, to collaborate with in-country healthcare providers and support them to make a difference. As he built MFH from the ground up, he was joined by like-minded, compassionate staff, Board Members, and in-country partners. Since Tim started, MFH has helped vulnerable children and their families in more than 20 countries.

25 years later, MFH currently is working at 52 project sites that are part of 20 projects in 7 countries. We continue to work collaboratively with our in-country partners and the communities we serve. We build capacity and create sustainable initiatives that empower communities and strengthen their ability to raise healthy children. We are celebrating all of that this year, remembering Tim, and looking forward to the future. Thank you for joining with us as we say, “Happy Anniversary MFH!”

A Message from Our New Executive Director, Kristen Fanfant

As we move into the holiday season, I am so grateful to be part of an organization that prioritizes children worldwide. I have had the privilege to see Medicines for Humanity (MFH) grow over the last 7.5 years while I worked as the Program Manager for LAC, and now I am excited to lead our global efforts as the Executive Director. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to work alongside talented and dedicated staff, Board, partners and generous donors who make a difference in the lives of so many mothers and children facing unthinkable challenges every day just to survive.

As MFH celebrates our 25th anniversary this year, I reflect on the vision of our founder, Tim Bilodeau, to save the lives of children all over the world, his compassion for people, and his dedication to make the most of every dollar donated. Tim sought to help parents who are forced to stand by helplessly and watch their child die from easily preventable illnesses. Although this is unimaginable for many of us, every day in marginalized places around the world, it is a sad reality. My goal is to continue, building on what MFH has accomplished over the past 25 years, maintaining our focus on the most effective ways to reach mothers and children in countries where health services are most needed.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generous support and partnership in advancing MFH’s mission! I’m excited to see what the next 25 years holds for us and all of the families we serve around the globe.

MFH Perseveres in Haiti Despite the Latest Challenges

The nation of Haiti continues to struggle with insecurity, gang violence, fuel shortages, and service closures throughout the country. The situation escalated this past September, leading to a lockdown that has now spanned almost two months. This has impacted everyone in the country, limiting travel, closing schools, and even closing many health facilities. Families live in constant fear of kidnapping and violence while also trying to navigate daily life and the necessities of providing food and water for their households.  In addition, the country is also dealing with a recent cholera outbreak.

Despite these challenges, our committed staff and partners are determined to keep MFH’s projects running, although some clinics have had to close intermittently due to violence or fuel shortages. Dedicated Community Health Workers are continuing to meet with families when it is safe to provide much needed health services and health education. CHWs are vital to their communities. They also identify and refer sick children who may not have been taken to clinics otherwise. MFH is  working to provide medicines, supplies and water treatment to combat cholera. We will continue to follow our security measures, having staff work from home when needed and limiting travel to keep everyone as safe as possible. Please keep Haiti, our partners, and team members in your thoughts and prayers as this is a very challenging time for them!

MFH Responds to the Enormous Need in the Democratic Republic of Congo

With the fifth highest under 5 mortality rate in the world and 7.5 million children in need of humanitarian assistance, there is no question that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the most underserved countries in Sub-Saharan Africa when it comes to maternal and child health services. Those facts stood out like a clarion call to the Medicines for Humanity Board of Directors and they supported the staff’s recommendation to expand our service footprint in DRC.

MFH’s Program Director, Kenneth Muko, is no stranger to the challenges faced by families in DRC. Prior to joining MFH 12 years ago, Kenneth worked in the DRC and shares the following story. “One of the most painful memories that still haunts me from my work in the Congo is the custom of the Bukavu to not allow people to cry when a newborn baby dies. This is because the deaths of newborns are so common. As soon as a babies die, they are quickly buried, the graves are not marked, and none of the ceremonies that are carried out for older children or adults take place. To some extent it is considered a taboo for a mother to mourn. She is encouraged to try having another child with the hope that the baby may be lucky the next time around and survive.”

In 2020, under Kenneth’s leadership, MFH began partnering on a pilot project to improve maternal and child health outcomes for vulnerable women and children in Ciherano, in the eastern region of the country. After only two years, the outcomes demonstrate what can be accomplished with direct, simple, and efficient actions. The data shows that there has been a 40% increase in safe deliveries at health facilities. There has been 38% increase among pregnant women who receive prenatal care and a 36% increase receiving postnatal care. The child death rate has gone down by 15%, and there are 13% fewer malnourished children. These results are especially remarkable due to the additional challenges posed by COVID-19 and the displacement of over 5 million Congolese due to ongoing ethnic and geopolitical conflict in the region.

Much of the  pilot project’s success is because of the commitment and the increased capacity of health care partners, the support we received from funders, and the effectiveness of 16 Community Health Workers that MFH have helped train. Through a teamwork approach to educating the community, health promotion efforts targeted to women and mothers, and more than five thousand home visits made to the more than 1,200 households in the surrounding community, referrals to health facilities by CHWs has increased by more than 24% during the first two years of the Ciherano project. All of this has given great hope to this community and others in DRC.

The Medicines for Humanity staff and Board point to these successful data points as inspiration for continuing our efforts there. This summer we expanded to two new sites in Mubumbano and Tuungane, and this month we will adding a site in Luvungi. This will total four DRC sites.

As we consider the challenges that face us, we are reminded by a quote from cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead that says, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

New MFH Program Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean

Uts Pierre has joined Medicines for Humanity as Program Manager, Latin America and the Caribbean. In this role, he will manage all maternal and child health projects and staff in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. “Uts will be a wonderful addition to the MFH staff. His medical training and experience will add important expertise when guiding the critical health services we provide to vulnerable populations,” remarked Program Director Kenneth Muko. He added, “His background in psychosocial services and patient care will be extremely valuable for populations experiencing adverse situations that impact their psychosocial well-being.”

“I am very motivated to join Medicines for Humanity and have an opportunity to give back to my native Haiti,” explained Uts. “There is great need there as well as in the bateyes of the Dominican Republic. I am proud to be able to make a difference to those who need our help.”

Uts most recently was an HIV Medical Case Manager for Action Wellness, a social services agency in Philadelphia that provides holistic and trauma-informed health, prevention and supportive services. Prior to that he worked as a physician for Partners in Health in Mirebalais, Haiti, providing mental health and psychosocial services to patients. Uts earned a Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of Quisqueya, a Master of Science with a concentration in Health Organization and Social Protection from Paris Nanterre University, and a B.A. in Psychology from the State University of Haiti. He has also taught nursing at the college level. Uts is fluent in his native Creole, French, and English, and is proficient in Spanish. He is currently based in the U.S. and lives in Philadelphia.

Help Celebrate "MFH 25 Years" on Giving Tuesday

For 25 years, Medicines for Humanity has been working around the globe to bring critically-needed health services to vulnerable children and their mothers. There is much to celebrate and much for which to be thankful. We hope you will help us mark this milestone by making a donation to Medicines for Humanity on Giving Tuesday, November 29th to help save more lives and provide resources to mothers and children who struggle every day to survive. Please donate online here.

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