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HOPE works in more than 35 countries worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work to provide Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.

The Never-Ending Line

Posted By: Ted Wendel on November 24, 2015

Labels: Macedonia, Syrian Refugee Crisis , Humanitarian Aid

Migrants waiting to enter the Gevgelija Transit Center

The line seems to go on forever. Each day they come. Migrants from Syria, Northern Africa and Afghanistan moving northward toward an uncertain future in Western Europe and Scandinavia. Some days the line may be shorter because of strikes in Greece, but once the strikes are over the line swells again. 

How long can this go on? The answer is uncertain. It is a complex mixture of human need and politics. The camps in Turkey hold millions. Speaking with those who pass through the Migrant Transit Center in Macedonia, it is clear that all those in the camps want to move on. They are willing to risk their lives crossing the sea between Turkey and Greece for a chance at a better life. The reality of this greatest migration of humans is just now being considered. No one can see the end of the line and even the onset of the winter months may not stem the flow of migrants.

Project HOPE staff are helping at the Gevgelija Transit Center with donated medicines and medical supplies

Temporary solutions are no longer realistic. Plans need to be put in place that recognize the first 500,000 migrants are only the vanguard. There are at least a million more who will follow. The first group of migrants are those who have managed to put together the financial resources to make the trip. Subsequent groups may be poorer and need more help.

Project HOPE is doing what it can to help. An initial small group of volunteers is present at the Migrant Transit Center in Gevgelija, Macedonia. Their work is supported by an incredible team of Project HOPE professionals at the office in Skopje. Working as a team, they provide much needed relief for health care workers from the local Ministry of Health. These Project HOPE volunteers work side by side with their local colleagues and the Red Cross providing medical care to the sick and injured who arrive at the Migrant Center each day. 

Project HOPE needs your assistance to be sure we are prepared to keep helping. Volunteer health care professionals spend three weeks of their personal time in Gevgelija. They give their time and talent. They do it because their values transcend the politics and focus on helping people in need.



Posted By: Ted Wendel on November 23, 2015

Labels: Macedonia, Syrian Refugee Crisis , Humanitarian Aid

Migrants awaiting entrance into the Gevgelija transit camp

Gevgelija, Macedonia is a small town just north of the border with Greece. Until recently this small rural community of 20,000 was of little note on the world political scene. The massive migration of refugees has changed the importance of this town. It will live forever in the annals of history and the memory of hundreds of thousands of refugees who pass through on their migration northward.

Migrants cross the sea from Turkey to Greece. They pass through Greece, first by ferry and then by any means possible to get to the border with Macedonia. Gevgelija is the first stop on the rail line that crosses from north to south in Macedonia. In Gevgelija, for 25 they can board a train and quickly move to the Serbian border and toward their goal of a better life in Western Europe.

The change for Gevgelija started with a trickle of migrants in the spring. The vanguard of the migration crossed the border check point and walked less than a kilometer to the train station. At first the numbers were small and the migrants were processed quickly at the train station and moved on.

Within a month the train station was inundated with thousands of people traveling northward. The train station could no longer function and the regularly schedule trains overflowed with people. Some had proper documentation but others may not. In a few months the trickle became a flood stressing the resources of the town and the nerves of its people.

Migrant at the Gevglija Transit Center

The Macedonia government and The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) recognized the need to respond. They recognized that Gevgelija was an important milepost where migrants could find food, water, proper documentation and, if needed, medical care. They could also be organized in manageable groups for the next stage of their journey.

In response to the crushing demands of a tidal wave of migrants, the UNHCR created a Migrant Transit Center in a farm field just a few hundred meters north of the Greek border. After leaving Greece, migrants walk a short dirt path to the camp. Before entering they are organized into groups of fifty. Each small group is then admitted to the Center and given Macedonian travel credentials that allow them to stay in Macedonian for a maximum of 72 hours. They also get a bag of food, water, blankets, and access to health care if they need it.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) play an important role in helping the migrants as they enter Macedonia. Both the Red Cross and Project HOPE cooperate in providing medical service that ranges from care of scrapes and bruises to the emergency needs of a baby in respiratory distress. Other NGOs give out water and provide valuable translation services.

Project HOPE volunteer Dr. Corey Kahn cares for a migrant patient on her first day at the Immigrant Transit Center

It is impossible to stereotype the migrants. Almost ten thousand pass through the Transit Center each day. They don’t stay long….maybe four hours for most. They are men, women and children. They range in age from newly born to octogenarians. Many are college students. An impressive number are well-educated professionals seeking to bring their talents to a new home in Germany or Sweden or maybe Great Britain. Most have risked their lives to cross the sea, escaping the camps in Turkey where they have stagnated for a year or more. Some are called “economic” immigrants who are moving with the rest with the hope of a better life in Europe. Predominately they are from war-torn Syria, but an ever increasing number come from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gevgelija will never be the same. The city’s economy has been taxed by the crushing needs for policing, trash removal, emergency medical care and an untold litany of other services that seem trivial until the need is multiplied by hundreds of thousands. There is no end in sight. Officials won’t even speculate on how long the migration will continue or how many more people will pass through the Migrant Transit Center.

Gevgelija will never be just a sleepy little border town again. For some locals this seems tragic. For half a million migrants it will be a significant milestone on their journey northward. They will remember the kindness and support that they were given by the Macedonian people and organizations like Project HOPE.


Volunteer Works to Improve Quality of Maternal and Newborn Care in Kosovo

Posted By Patti Nicks, RNC, MSN, Project HOPE Volunteer on November 19, 2015

Labels: Kosovo , Alumni, Volunteers

Volunteer nurse Patti Nicks trains health care workers at University Hospital in Pristina, Kosovo

Patti Nicks, RNC, MSN is a registered nurse who specializes in maternal and child health from British Columbia, Canada. She spent five weeks recently volunteering at the University Hospital in Pristina, Kosovo, where she provided side-by-side trainings and lectures to the health care professionals working in the labor and delivery ward to improve the quality of care provided to the new mothers and their babies.

I came to the University Hospital in Pristina, Kosovo to bring my knowledge and expertise in neonatal, perinatal and maternal and child health to the health professionals here. In particular, I came to impart my knowledge of infection control and the importance of breastfeeding. Over the course of five weeks, I worked alongside hospital staff in the labor and delivery ward and provided lectures and side-by-side trainings to the doctors and nurses at the hospital on topics such as post-partum hemorrhaging and infection control.

Patti Nicks visits a newborn at University Hospital in Pristina, Kosovo

An average of 30 babies are delivered at University Hospital every 24 hours. I was able to work alongside nurses and doctors managing the care of the mothers and their newborns under difficult circumstances. Limited prenatal care and a lack of prenatal education make it difficult for the mother to understand what is going on inside her body. Due to the number of births, delivery is often rushed in order to empty a bed needed for the next delivery.

The nurses and doctors do amazing work under extreme conditions. Just five nurses manage the care of more than 40 patients and their newborns during the day, and the staff ratio decreases to just three nurses at night and on weekends. The amazing nurses do this unbelievable feat every shift with limited equipment and resources.

Patti Nicks trains health care professionals at University Hospital in Pristina, Kosovo

I am so incredibly thankful Project HOPE is here in Kosovo. There is a great deal Project HOPE can do to improve the quality of maternal and neonatal health care by training health care workers, providing for equipment needs and bringing health care practices up to the latest standards. It has been my privilege to be able to report back to Project HOPE on the needs I witnessed in Kosovo and begin to provide trainings to health care workers that will improve the quality of care for new moms and their babies in Kosovo in the future.


Volunteers Help Migrants in Macedonia

Posted By: Ted Wendel on November 10, 2015

Labels: Macedonia, Syrian Refugee Crisis , Volunteers

Migrants line up at the Gevgelija Transit Center on the border with Greece

The first day of a new mission for Project HOPE volunteers is often an intimidating time. The challenges of a new site, new people, different languages and a host of other unknowns can be overwhelming. But for Dr. Corey Kahn and nurse Louisa Reade, their first day was very productive. 

Each mission starts with planning and orientation. These meetings set the tone for weeks to come. Once the meetings end, it is time to travel to the site and get to work stocking and setting up. 

The team is working on the southern border of Macedonia, just a few hundred meters from Greece. Migrating immigrants travel through Greece heading to Europe. Their first stop in Macedonia is the Immigrant Transit Center. There they get official transit papers and wait for a train that takes them north to the Serbian border. While at the transit center, these traveler receive food, water, blankets and the opportunity to get medical care delivered by the Project HOPE team.

Project HOPE volunteer Dr. Corey Kahn cares for a migrant patient on her first day at the Immigrant Transit Center

On the first day the number of patients was limited. A strike by the ferry boat workers has stalled the transportation of immigrants from Greece. Even with the small numbers passing through the transit center, there were patients to be seen. Most patients have the routine bumps and bruises associated with weeks of traveling. One more serious patient fainted and hit his head. This type of injury involves the skilled care of a well prepared team. The Project HOPE team of Corey and Louisa were well prepared to care for the patient. 

About 2,000 migrants passed through the camp on the team’s first day.  Compared to the last few weeks this is considered a "slow" day. This short lull won't last. The ferry boats are back to work, and there are reports of over 10,000 immigrants on buses heading for the Macedonian border. Tomorrow promises to be busy!


Nurturing and Strengthening Global NCD Partnerships to Defeat NCD Burden

Posted By: Laxmikant Palo, Ph.D. on November 5, 2015

Labels: India , Chronic Disease

Dr. Laxmikant Palo (far left) at the Lilly NCD Partnership Summit 2015 in Porto Alegre, Brazil

We all are well acquainted with the burden of Type 2 diabetes which accounts for a great share of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) overall. But what about the lesser known type 1 diabetes?

To draw greater attention and action to addressing both conditions, the Lilly NCD Partnership Summit 2015 took place recently in Porto Alegre, Brazil. It was an awe-inspiring event which answered my concerns and my worries suddenly felt feather like!

Let me first share my concerns: the number of children developing type 1 diabetes every year is increasing rapidly. A person with type 1 diabetes needs to follow a structured self-management plan, including insulin use and blood glucose monitoring, physical activity, and a healthy diet. In low-income set ups, access to self-care tools, including self-management education, as well as to insulin, is too often limited. This can lead to severe disability and early death in children with diabetes.

Dr. Laxmikant Palo (far left) at the Lilly NCD Partnership Summit 2015 in Porto Alegre, Brazil

During a field visit while in Brazil, I witnessed some great work done under the Lilly NCD Partnership. The Institute for Children with Diabetes (ICD) has pioneered comprehensive care model which includes innovative yet simple training and education tools for rooting the concept of type 1 diabetes management amongst children and adolescents along with their families. The goal is to help these children become more involved in their treatment and significantly reduce acute hospitalizations and chronic complications of diabetes. Unfortunately in India we lack such robust tailor-made care models catering to type 1 population. However I am highly optimistic that uptake of learnings and findings from the ICD model – and others best practices we saw during the summit can provide long lasting solutions to the problem of diabetes in India youngsters.  

The Lilly NCD Partnership once again underpins the strength of collaborative efforts for influencing the global NCD policies.


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