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Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on September 28, 2010

Labels: Nicaragua , Humanitarian Aid, Volunteers

While I saw first-hand the long-term impact of our pneumococcal vaccine program among Nicaraguans in the Managua region, a team of Project HOPE volunteer doctors and nurses were making a difference in the lives of hundreds of Nicaraguans in the remote coastal town of Bluefields.

For ten days, beginning September 16th, HOPE volunteers, along with Navy medical personnel on board the USS Iwo Jima, have provided health care and health education to Nicaraguans in need, as part of the 2010 Continuing Promise humanitarian outreach program. (I hope you have been following the daily blogs from our volunteers on the ship.)

This 2010 Continuing Promise mission is the twentieth humanitarian assistance mission that HOPE has partnered with the U.S. Navy since the response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2005. Since then, HOPE volunteers, Navy medical personnel and representatives from other NGOs have cared for more than 550,000 patients and provided health education to more than 115,000 doctors, nurses and other health care workers.

In Bluefields, HOPE volunteers have seen more than 600 patients daily and provided health education classes on topics such as diabetes, hypertension, women’s health and basic hygiene to more than 300 people each day.

Anne Borden, MPH, RN, is one HOPE volunteer who is teaching patients to better manage their chronic diseases. Anne tells her students that the burden of a chronic disease, such as diabetes, may be heavy. But the knowledge gained by learning to live with the disease stays with you forever and helps you to better manage it.

Back in Managua, I had the pleasure of meeting the U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, Robert Callahan. Ambassador Callahan has visited the USS Iwo Jima and witnessed the truly heroic humanitarian work of the HOPE volunteers and U.S. Navy personnel. I listened as the Ambassador and USAID Director for Nicaragua, Norma Parker, shared their support of a healthier Nicaragua through humanitarian aid initiatives.

Humanitarian aid is often believed to be only related to disaster relief efforts. Yet, this aid comes in many forms, as I have mentioned. A common thread in the humanitarian aid programs HOPE delivers, whether it be in response to a natural disaster or a pressing health challenge – is long-term sustainability. This is being seen in Nicaragua today.

John

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