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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.

NRI Hospital, Vijayawada India November 2014

Posted By Noreen Prokuski, CNM on December 2, 2014

Labels: India , Health Systems Strengthening

Noreen Prokuski is a Certified Nurse Midwife from Burr Ridge, Illinois.  She spent three weeks in the fall of 2014 volunteering at NRI General Hospital in Vijayawada, India, where Project HOPE is helping the hospital achieve an important accreditation. Prokuski focused on hygiene requirements and requirements specific to OBGYN patients.

NRI General Hospital, Vijayawada, India

Project HOPE is assisting NRI General Hospital in Vijayawada, India in the State of Andhra Pradesh to achieve accreditation with the INDIA NationalAccreditation Board for Hospitals or NABH. To do this, the hospital has to pass a stringent checklist of more than 600 critical objectives crucial for safe patient care. This is no small task, since NRI is a sprawling 1,000 bed charity facility serving a rural and low-income population. The hospital is a much needed resource to the many small villages in this rural, agricultural area of India.

As a Project HOPE volunteer, I was given a tour of the hospital and introduced to staff members.  I met staff of at all levels of the hospital - from the kitchen staff to the hospital administrator.  As a nurse midwife, I was most interested in the labor, antepartum and postpartum wards, and I was warmly received by the patients, nurses, medical students, residents and attending doctors staffing those wards.

The maternity ward at NRI General Hospital, Vijayawada, India

The staff listened earnestly to suggestions of how they could upgrade their practices to better serve their patients and achieve hospital accreditation. They were extremely happy to have us working with them and to discover how we practice medicine in the United States.  

In the upcoming months, Project HOPE will continue to send nursing and medical volunteers to help these hardworking professionals achieve their goals and continue to be able to serve their needy population.


Rebuilding Continues for Health Facilities in Philippines

Posted By: Jon Brack on November 8, 2014

Labels: The Philippines , Disaster-Relief, Humanitarian Aid

Jon Brack, a volunteer photojournalist from Washington D.C., spent two weeks traveling with our Board of Directors delegation to the Philippines and Indonesia starting in late October 2014.  The delegation is visiting our program beneficiaries and sites.

Recovery continues in the Camotes Islands, the Philippines one year after Typhoon Haiyan

The Project HOPE Board of Directors delegation made its first site visit in the Philippines to the beautiful Camotes Islands. The area sustained a direct hit from Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last November, and its only hospital and all regional and rural health care facilities in the islands’ four districts were heavily damaged. Project HOPE responded in the immediate aftermath of the disaster with donations of medicine and medical supplies, and three volunteer health professionals provided care.

Reaching Camotes Islands involves a two-hour ferry ride from Cebu, one of the main islands in the center of the Philippines. The ferry travels several times a day and serves as the only access to Camotes. Medical emergencies also use the same boat to transport patients for care not possible on the island.

Rebuilding goes on in the Philippines one year after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)

Project HOPE's delegation visited the several active programs still happening on Camotes. A group of three retired electricians from the San Fransisco area are volunteering their time and expertise to repair the Calamante Barangay Health Station with a new roof and reallocation of internal areas to allow for a larger delivery room. Three happier men would be hard to find, and they and their four local assistants were already tearing out the old features and preparing for the new, better facility. After Calamante, they'll do the same with the Moabog Health Station on Pilar, the next island over.

We also had the chance to meet a new doctor for Camotes Hospital that HOPE has helped hire with the Provincial Health Office as part of a new fellowship. He'll also be responsible for outreach in the various health centers throughout the islands in areas normally without access to health care.

Dr. Joyce Johnson, the head of HOPE's board delegation, was one of the original volunteers to Camotes after the typhoon and enthusiastically reported that things had improved considerably since she was there in the weeks immediately following the storm. Homes have been rebuilt, crops and fields regrown, fallen trees removed with new ones growing to replace them. With an inspiring level of resiliency and a lot of hard work, the people of Camotes continue to rebuild their islands back to the beautiful place that it was before.


Signs of HOPE in the Philippines

Posted By: Jon Brack on November 7, 2014

Labels: The Philippines , Disaster-Relief, Women’s and Children’s Health, Health Systems Strengthening, Volunteers

Beneficiaries of Project HOPE's maternal and child health program in Bantayan Island, the Philippines

Jon Brack, a volunteer photojournalist from Washington D.C., spent two weeks traveling with our Board of Directors delegation to the Philippines and Indonesia starting in late October 2014.  The delegation is visiting our program beneficiaries and sites.

Bantayan Island sits off the west coast of northern Cebu, a low-lying area covered in coconut trees and fields of sugarcane surrounded by expansive white sand beaches. This flat terrain provided no natural protection from Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the destruction from which was extensive.  Winds from the typhoon removed roofs, flattened trees, knocked over houses and sunk fishing boats. Though fishermen are back out in repaired boats, and the roof is intact again on the town's centuries-old church, Bantayan is still recovering and rebuilding from such a destructive storm.

As a sign of the islanders’ resiliency, the Project HOPE Board of Directors delegation was met getting off of their ferry by the dancing and drumbeats of the Santa Fe High School Marching Band. We boarded a bus and drove through town to the Santa Fe Health Station and their new birthing center. It was very exciting to see Project HOPE stickers on the newly donated equipment and supplies in the facility already going to good use delivering babies.

Beneficiaries of Project HOPE's maternal and child health program in Bantayan Island, the Philippines

HOPE's programs in Bantayan are focused on the Maternal, Neonatal, Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) Project. By increasing demand for and strengthening the quality of these MNCHN services, HOPE aims to reduce the morbidity and mortality rates of these at-risk groups.

Next we were off to the Bantayan District Hospital, the only hospital on the island, to tour the facility and see a presentation about their history and how they've rebuilt after the typhoon. They also had a wide variety of Project HOPE-donated supplies in their recently constructed maternity ward.

From there we headed downtown to the Bantayan Municipal Hall for a lunch hosted by the mayor and attended by several members of the local government. We walked over to the rural health center to observe its first prenatal class for pregnant women in the newly reconstructed building. The nurses, midwifes and new mothers were very proud of their new facility and thankful for all Project HOPE had done to make the reconstruction happen.


Progress Amid Heartbreak at the Hastings Ebola Treatment Facility - Sierra Leone

Posted By: Scott Crawford on November 6, 2014

Labels: Africa , Sierra Leone , Disaster-Relief, Humanitarian Aid, Infectious Disease, Health Systems Strengthening

Project HOPE's Dr. Dalibor Tasevski, Osman Kabia and Scott Crawford recently spent a week in Sierra Leone, to ensure there is a reliable logistics platform to receive, distribute and monitor shipments of pharmaceutical and other medical supply donations. This is a report from the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center, which is receiving Project HOPE medical supply donations. The Project HOPE team was careful not to enter the treatment rooms, but was given free access to see the facility and talk to the health care workers. The survival rate in this facility is the highest in the country and much of the credit goes to the medical director, Dr. Idriz, who has inspired his staff and created a real team spirit.

Ebola Treatment Center Hastings Sierra Leone

The visit to the Hastings Ebola Treatment Facility, about 15 miles outside of Freetown, was an eye-opening experience that gave the team a better sense of the emergency and how a rapidly built Ebola treatment center looks and operates. We met with the medical personnel (20 in total), toured the facility and were introduced to the workers who contributed to making this place a success story. We visited the pharmacy and talked about their needs and challenges. This center will be one of those who will be receiving Project HOPE donated medicines and medical supplies. With regard to human resources, they said they were in good shape, doing an excellent job and have no personnel infected so far. They managed to save approximately 30 percent of those infected and sent for treatment. The biggest problem is the lack of sanitizers and cleaning solutions. A Project HOPE shipment of sanitizers and cleaning  solutions is on the way. Lack of appropriate food for the patients is also a big problem here, soups in particular. The staff are all very young, willing to work and looking forward to our support. Chief Physician, Dr. Idriz, gave us a tour and talked about the conditions; currently they have 123 Ebola-positive patients in treatment. Dr. Idriz and many others from the staff sleep at the center and don’t leave the campus for days. In fact they were eating in their dormitory, the room next to the treatment room, and they offered us a bite. But we declined.

Ebola Survivor Suma now helps others at the Hastings Clinic.

During our stay we met a boy, mid-teens, named Suma, who managed to survive the virus three weeks ago and now is a regular visitor to the center, helping the medical staff by encouraging the infected patients and boosting moral. He offered to work for any NGO and feels he was saved to help the others.

There are many heartbreaking situations here. A woman died during the quarantine and left a 3 week old infant. They now struggle with caring for the baby amid the chaos and hope they can find a solution - a facility or group who will take the child and provide care until they know the status.


The Ebola Crisis: Report From the Front Lines

Posted By: Frederick Gerber on October 10, 2014

Labels: Africa , Sierra Leone , Global Health Expertise, Humanitarian Aid, Health Care Education, Infectious Disease, Health Systems Strengthening

Project HOPE sent a team of medical and disaster relief experts to the front lines in Ebola-affected Sierra Leone to work with key health and emergency response officials and survey health facilities, logistics and lines of communication. The goal is to identify key gaps in the country's ability to combat Ebola, effectively treat patients and operate its overall health system. The team leader and Director of Project HOPE’s Special Programs and Operations, Frederick Gerber, sent this report from Freetown: 

Project HOPE’s Director of Special Programs and Operations, Frederick Gerber

Everyone is stunned by the enormity of the situation here.  “We weren’t prepared” is a recurring theme among officials and health workers.  I’ve heard this many times before -- it's the common thread that runs through all disasters in the developing world – lack of preparation for the worst and a failure to prepare ahead of time.

The Ebola outbreak has taken an emotional toll on everyone.  Signs of stress are on every face. The government understands the need for technical and resourcing assistance, all beyond their capability, and there is a real need for international organizations to come into the country to implement solutions.  Some officials are frustrated at restrictions on travel by airline and shipping companies, which make it harder to scale up the relief effort.

In neighborhoods in the capital, at the airport and business district, shops and businesses are open, and people are still going about their business. But myths abound about the Ebola virus here. Hawking Sierra Leonean traditional medicine, local shamans are doing swift trade, peddling their belief in magic spells, witchcraft, and superstitions. There’s a local myth that chlorine wash solution – present at almost every store, house, hotel, restaurant entrance – causes cancer. 

I heard a story going around about a man in Freetown who was told his Ebola test came back negative, but his HIV test was positive.  He exclaimed, “Thank God.” 

There are abundant laws to stop human-to-human contact. “ABC” (“Avoid Body Contact”) is the chant going around; it is almost universal across Sierra Leone now.  Previous fines for not wearing a seat belt are now relaxed, as are laws for motorcyclists not wearing helmets, because of concern for people touching infected objects.  

After arriving at the Freetown Airport at 0200 hours one morning last week, I had to wash my hands in chlorinated water before entering the terminal. I filled out a lengthy health form, had my temperature taken with a thermal imager, and then was released to pick up my bags. I was met by a Sierra Leone army lieutenant escort officer; I naturally shook his hand. A porter came over to me and whispered, “I saw you shook that man in uniform’s hand.  We don’t shake hands now in Sierra Leone because of Ebola.” He impressed upon me the “No Touch” rule that I saw the next day across the country. The fact a porter would approach me and counsel me on not shaking hands is a sign of how serious Sierra Leone is about stopping the spread of the disease, and how effective the government’s been, at least, in spreading the “No Touch” rule. The “Ebola handshake” is now rubbing elbows instead of hands. 

Health workers in Sierra Leone and other Ebola-affected countries in West Africa have been seriously impacted and stigmatized.  Nurses and physicians have been turfed out of their houses and chiefdoms by neighbors and family because of the widespread fear that after treating Ebola victims, they’ll carry the disease home. 

Most private hospitals are closed now because people are frightened about catching Ebola from other infected patients.  Routine treatment of other killer diseases such as malaria, typhoid and cholera has practically stopped now, as everyone is focused on Ebola. No one wants to go to clinics, hospitals or holding centers, because they are scared these facilities are “incubators” for the disease. 

Some of these concerns are justified. Some hospitals seeing and treating Ebola patients were not – and still are not – using proper infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures. It’s the single biggest failure in Sierra Leone’s health system. Patients who didn’t have the disease when they first entered the facility later contract it from other non-segregated patients. Those old dictums – “hand washing and hand sanitization are the easiest and best way to prevent infections and illnesses from spreading” – continue to be true.

It’s likely that this crisis and the headline-making Ebola case in the U.S. will prompt the international community to be more invested in helping West Africa improve its health capacity. As the disease geometrically spreads, with one infected patient now infecting two others, who each infect four, who infect eight and so on, it will catch the international community’s attention. While Ebola is not easily spread, contrary to misinformed public and media hype, there are no vaccines or treatments against Ebola infection available for use in humans despite substantial research progress.

This may be the 21st century, but we’re still finding that culture, customs and religion continue to have as strong a pull in the opposite direction as science and facts. But Ebola can be halted with education, safe practices and infection control. And that is a message we must continue to underline.

Disasters management follows four basic phases: Preparedness, Response, Recovery, Mitigation. A nation’s response to a disaster is always a reflection of how well it prepared for it, and this Ebola epidemic is no exception. The job of the developed world now is to help less well-off countries transition to better health care systems that can stave off future crises.


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