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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.

Improving the Health of Women and Children in Indonesia

Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on March 4, 2015

Labels: Indonesia , Women’s and Children’s Health

Dr. Howe Indonesia Women's and Children's Health

Flying from Cebu, through Manila, we landed in Jakarta on a warm, humid afternoon in Indonesia - a beautiful country that was devastated by a tsunami over ten years ago.  Together, our team kicked off the Indonesian leg of my visit to Southeast Asia with a productive and energizing dinner with Johnson & Johnson Indonesia’s Managing Director, Vishnu Kalra, and the NGO, Give 2 Asia’s Program Advisor for Indonesia, Anna Juliastuti. The group discussed what I like to call our "intersections of interest,"our common strategic priorities, and of course HOPE’s excellent women’s and children’s program in Serang, West Java. 

The next day, we drove into the highlands to the town of Subang, home to a large number of garment factories supporting U.S. buyers such as Target, Walmart, JC Penney, and many others.  In Subang, Project HOPE, in partnership with MSD’s Merck for Mothers, is operating a unique and creative women’s and children’s health program called HealthWorks, which is offering comprehensive health care and health education to thousands of women now working in garment factories in Indonesia. 

Dr. Howe Indonesia HealthWorks

Project HOPE is currently working with MSD and local NGO, Yayasan Kusuma Buana (YKB), at five factories in the area, over a three year period, with opportunities to expand further. The program provides train-the-trainer health education, supervises the development and management of a volunteer core team (20+ women who oversee the health education activities of the factory population – as volunteers, at lunch and after hours, as well as advocacy support and oversight of the nursing station).  After two years, the data speaks for itself.  Each factory's three major business indicators have shown significant improvement:  increase in productivity, decrease in sick leave, and improved productivity.  The health and wellbeing of the participating women workers have improved, and this is having a direct impact on the health of their children and families. We toured the PT Hansoll-Hyun factory in the morning, followed by the Daenong factory after lunch.

I was so impressed with our HealthWorks program.  Watching just over 3,000 women leave at the exact same time for lunch, with the stunning colors of their clothing as they streamed out of the buildings en masse, underscored the size of our target population -- and the communities we are helping.  Listening to our volunteer HOPE-trained core instructor team, as they provided health education to a group of women workers was so inspiring.  And, seeing new mothers utilizing the private, dedicated breastfeeding rooms as well as receiving examinations and care served to further validate the need for what HOPE is trying to achieve here.

That evening, we met with Ashish Pal, the President and Managing Director of MSD Indonesia, and  Ira Setyawati, the Communications Director for MSD.  We had a lively and memorable evening strengthening our historic ties, aligning our common goals and interests, and reliving our wonderful day at the factories.  HealthWorks “works” and it was a great opportunity to share notes and emphasize the importance of our joint efforts.  This program is scalable, replicable and one that we’ll attempt to grow together going forward.  All in all, a great experience and so symbolic of “doing well by doing good!”

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Building Women’s and Children’s Health in the Philippines

Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on March 3, 2015

Labels: The Philippines , Disaster-Relief, Humanitarian Aid

Project HOPE President and CEO, John P. Howe, III, M.D. visits District Hospital, Bantayan Island, the Philippines

Our team set out for Bantayan Island and the town of Bogo to observe the great work of HOPE’s nurse trainers.  To get to Bantayan, we drove to the northern tip of Cebu – about a three-hour drive – and then took a one-hour car ferry.  Upon arrival, we were met by our local staff members, who drove us to our first stop at the district hospital.  It was clean and well-maintained, and it was a joy to observe HOPE’s nurse trainers provide family planning training to a rapt audience of expectant mothers. The importance of those lessons were never more evident than when we witnessed a 17-year old couple and their premature infant who had been quickly placed in an incubator. The number of births at the hospital has been steadily increasing after the wonderful addition of a dedicated, tireless obstetrician.  HOPE’s work in health education and training is more important than ever.  It was also exciting to see the HOPE donated equipment in use at the hospital, including an autoclave, a generator, birthing scales, and the incubator that was helping the premature baby survive.

A Project HOPE-donated incubator helps an infant at the Bantayan district hospital

We left the hospital to visit the Rural Health Unit – the public health facility that focuses on deliveries, family planning, and immunizations. Again, we witnessed HOPE educators teaching family planning to expecting mothers. Like in Camotes, the appreciation and warmth displayed by the hospital and clinic staff, the beneficiaries, and the local leadership spoke for itself. The local Mayor and city counselor hosted a lovely lunch near the shore, sharing stories and strengthening our partnership.

From Bantayan, we traveled to the city of Bogo and visited with the local midwife who is running the Lapaz Barangay Health Station (BHS). I was so impressed with her dedication to improving health services for women and children.  She, along with her two young children, live in the BHS so they can be available 24 hours a day! She loves her work, is proud of what she does, and this could not have been more evident. Outside the BHS, the Project HOPE team met with the community leadership in the process of electing the Barangay health and patient advocacy committee, as part of our overall strategy to build the health service delivery network in the area – a community-led, bottom-up approach to health empowerment and ownership.

Rural Health Unit, Bantayan Island, the Philippines

After spending this time with our Project HOPE colleagues, partners, and beneficiaries in Camotes, Pilar, Cebu, Bantayan, and Bogo, and with the knowledge we also have a strong presence in Iloilo on Panay Island, I came away more energized and committed than ever. Our work and the great mission of Project HOPE all over the world – helping underprivileged populations devastated by natural disasters – is so vitally important to the fostering of strong, healthy communities for the future. To further experience our commitment to staying long after a disaster disappears from the headlines, we then set out for our health programs in Indonesia – a country that has survived enormous challenges after the devastating tsunami 10 years ago.

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Signs of HOPE in the Philippines and Indonesia

Health systems thrive in post-disaster period

Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on March 2, 2015

Labels: Indonesia, The Philippines , Disaster-Relief

Through compassion and determination, hope can emerge from some of the most destructive natural disasters.  One year after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines, and ten years after the devastating tsunami in Indonesia in 2004, Project HOPE is still in both countries helping to rebuild the health care system and  improve the health of women and children through sustainable, long-term health projects. 

This week, I had the privilege of visiting our programs in both countries.  

We began in the Philippines, where I met with the leadership of Ferring Pharmaceuticals Asia to discuss our new partnership designed to address one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in the Philippines – post-partum hemorrhage.  I then travelled with our team to the Province of Cebu to witness the amazing work our experts are doing post-typhoon to improve the health of women and children and strengthening the health system. Our first stop was the island of Camotes, a remote municipality hard-hit by the storm. To get there, we took a two-hour, 25-foot speed boat that left no article of clothing dry, no matter the number of ponchos, trash bags and shower caps used. 

Calamante Brangay Health Station

In Camotes, we met our local staff and participated in the ribbon-cutting of the Calamante Barangay Health Station (BHS).  The BHS structure was badly damaged by the typhoon. With a dedicated team of Project HOPE volunteers, supported by the Mazzetti engineering group, HOPE was able to rebuild the BHS to withstand future storms and provide a sustainable, environmentally-friendly solar power and water purification system to give the BHS continual electricity and potable water – a first in the municipality. We met with the three mayors of Camotes, the midwives and Barangay Health Workers, and the beneficiaries – all expressed their sincere, heartfelt thanks and appreciation for what was accomplished.  I was thrilled to hear from the senior midwife that when Typhoon Ruby stuck last December, seven families spent several nights in the BHS, using it as a storm shelter. It was one of the few places that kept its lights on and its water running.  

Camotes Pilar sea ambulance

Next, we traveled to the even more remote island of Pilar. The island does not have its own district hospital, which requires patients to pay for a long, oar-propelled canoe ride back to Camotes.  After Typhoon Haiyan, Project HOPE refurbished and donated a motor-propelled, larger canoe (called a “banca boat”), and converted it into a dedicated sea ambulance. We took the sea ambulance from Camotes to Pilar, completing the journey in less than an hour. The boat had a propitious start – its first christened voyage last year took a a very pregnant woman from Pilar to Camotes. While en route, the baby decided he was ready to see the world sooner than expected and was successfully delivered on the banca! In Pilar, we attended a second ribbon cutting ceremony for a similarly damaged BHS in the barangay of Moabog. It was a wonderful opportunity to highlight the powerful work completed by the HOPE volunteers and HOPE’s enduring friendship with the Philippine people. Finally, we visited the local elementary school where the HOPE construction team, on their own initiative, rebuilt the school’s outdoor stage and donated boxes of school supplies and materials to the children. We met with the Mayor,  the school principal and enjoyed a colorful ceremony, with children expressing their appreciation for Project HOPE through wonderful song and dance.

It was a true honor to meet the Vice Governor of Cebu, the Honorable Agnes Magpale, and a local matriarch of Cebu, Ms. Lorenza Ford.  Of note, Ms. Ford’s daughter, Dr. Patricia Ford, was instrumental in the initial medical mission response immediately following the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan.  I was again reminded by the Vice Governor and the community at large about the amazing impact our volunteers have made on the health and welfare of the people of these precious islands, all with the support of our generous donors and partners .

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Medical Needs Growing for Syrian Refugees In Turkey

Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on February 11, 2015

Labels: Syrian Refugee Crisis , Disaster-Relief

Aid to Syrian Refugees in Turkey

The international community considers Syria – and the effects on its population – to be the number one humanitarian crisis in the world today.The statistics are sobering.Since the civil war began in 2011, millions of Syrian civilians have been fleeing the conflict and its impact – destroyed homes, lack of food, jobs and health care.These uprooted civilians are now considered either Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) roaming the country looking for a safer, better life, or they have fled Syria to neighboring countries and are now refugees.

Turkey is hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees, with an estimated population of over 2 million within its borders.  The refugees have been welcomed with open arms and Turkey is doing everything within its power to improve the plight of the refugees.  Out of the 2 million, 350,000 have established homes within 23 camps. The rest have scattered across the country, from Ankara to Istanbul, with many populating non-camp urban refugee centers.  The country’s incredible generosity is evident. Turkey quickly established an ID card system to help maintain visibility of those entering the country legally.  The ID cards allow the Syrians free health care services in Turkish hospitals and offers the children opportunities for education.

But the massive influx of people into the health care system presents an enormous challenge. In addition to the traumatic war-related injuries that flood across the border daily, Syrian refugees are also introducing infectious diseases, from avian influenza to other viruses, and they are burdened by chronic diseases, such as diabetes, that have been left untreated for months or years due to the civil war.  As troubling, is the lack of resources for psychosocial support and resiliency training and care. There is an estimated need of mental health care for over 50% of the refugees inside Turkey, with only 3% having access to care.

There are positive signs amid this crisis. Project HOPE, in partnership with the local Turkish NGO, ANSAGIAD, are working collaboratively with the Ministry of Health and Turkey’s Ministry for Disaster and Emergency Management (the Turkish version of the our FEMA) to provide support to the Syrian refugees within Turkey.  While the health care services are free, the Ministry of Health does not have the budget to provide free medicines and medical supplies.  As a result, the refugees are paying a large portion of their limited earnings on medicines.  Recognizing this gap within the health care system, Project HOPE and ANSAGIAD continue to work to bring much-needed free, donated medicines into Turkey to fill this gap. To date, Project HOPE and ANSAGIAD have provided over USD $107 million in pharmaceuticals and consumables, with more shipments on the way.  Metformin, the first-line drug of choice for Type-2 diabetes, was the largest component of the shipments, anti-anxiety medication, and vitamins. 

The Syrian people have been extremely kind, thankful, and appreciative of Project HOPE’s support.  Due to the incredible size and scale of HOPE’s operation, it was very important for our senior leadership to get a true sense of the program.  So I am here in Turkey along with HOPE’s team of experts for one week to visit with key leadership and to see the impact we are making here.

Aid to Syrian Refugees in Turkey

We met with the CEO of ANSAGIAD, Mr. Kemal Yurtoglu, the Governor General for Syrian Refugee Affairs, Governor Veysel Dalmaz, the Ministry of Health’s Senior Syrian Refugee Coordinator, Mr. Ufuk Diri, and AFAD’s Head of Response Department, Mr. Fatih Ozer.All were so thankful for Project HOPE’s support and everyone agreed success would not be possible without the combined efforts of all.Later, we had the opportunity to tour three different homes in a non-camp Syrian urban host community within Ankara called Huseyin Gazi.We met multiple Syrian families, all of whom fled from Aleppo after the bombings, all of whom have at least one family member suffering from diabetes, and all of whom were – until recently – suffering from the extremely cold winter.

Dr. Howe visits Syrian Refugee Families in Turkey

I was thrilled to see that each family was receiving free Metformin to help manage their diabetes. It’s very important that these tablets could be traced back to Project HOPE’s donation with the aid of Turkey’s high-tech electronic product donation monitoring system.Furthermore, Project HOPE and ANSAGIAD donated 200 household heaters to support refugees living in small, concrete flats holding as many as ten family members.These homes were now warm and inviting as we came in from the cold, where snow was blowing horizontally between the streets and alleys.We also donated small gift bags and backpacks to the children and spent a wonderful afternoon visiting with these beneficiaries.

There is hope in Turkey for Syrian refugees – and Project HOPE is committed, with ANSAGIAD and others, to support and sustain this effort to improve the plight of refugees.

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Helping Babies Breathe in the Dominican Republic

Posted By Dr. Kavi Gnanasekaran and Dr. Vanee Balasubramaniam on February 6, 2015

Labels: Dominican Republic , Women’s and Children’s Health, Volunteers

Dr. Vanee Balasubramaniam, Teresa Narvaez and Dr. Kavi Gnanasekaran

As pediatric resident physicians from the University of Rochester, we had the incredible opportunity to teach three Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) courses in the Dominican Republic as Project HOPE volunteers. Approximately 20 percent of neonatal deaths in the Dominican Republic are due to birth asphyxia/trauma. Sadly, this has not changed over the past 13 years.

Upon arriving in the Dominican Republic and meeting with Project HOPE Country Director Teresa Narvaez, we were able to get in contact with the Ministry of Health in Santo Domingo to gain permission and identify areas of need for our courses. We were also able to meet our amazing Spanish interpreter, Sebastian Quevedo, a local Project HOPE volunteer who we were lucky to spend three weeks with and who was indispensable to our ability to both communicate locally and to teach courses.

Training at Encombe Municipal Hospital in Santo Domingo

We then travelled to the province of Monte Plata and met with the hospital directors at Monte Plata Provincial Hospital and Bayaguana Municipal Hospital. We were pleased to learn that every delivery in both hospitals had a trained perinatologist or general pediatrician in attendance. However nursing and other staff were not trained and could benefit most from Helping Babies Breathe. We taught our first course in Bayaguana, which was attended by 15 participants. We then taught courses in Monte Plata and in Encombe Municipal Hospital in Santo Domingo.

We had a truly great experience learning about how to implement an international project, learning how medicine is practiced in the Dominican Republic, and getting the chance to teach HBB courses. In the future there are plenty of ways for volunteers who are interested to get involved. Helping Babies Breathe is a great evidence-based program that is known to work and be sustainable if taught and utilized, and future volunteers could become master trainers and teach courses around the globe. Anyone with a strong idea, passion and perseverance can help make an impact as a Project HOPE volunteer.

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