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.
Quite simply, America is the linchpin of the system of global health development and humanitarian assistance.
But the recent release of the White House’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget blueprint unveiled stark cuts to foreign aid which, if implemented, would risk endangering the health and well-being of millions of people around the world as well as our nation’s historic role as a lifeline to those in need.
And since instability and deprivation is also a threat to U.S. national security, it would be in America’s interest for Congress to mitigate the budget reductions for USAID and State Department programs, and to safeguard the U.S. government’s role in humanitarian assistance and development of lifesaving health programs.
The proposed budget cuts of about one third for State and USAID will put the lives of vulnerable people in peril, increase poverty and undermine America’s prestige in the world. We should remember, for instance, that millions of people are alive today because of U.S.-provided anti-retroviral drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS and five million children still draw breath owing to treatment funded by the U.S. taxpayer for diarrhea and pneumonia. Not only is this the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective, but it provides an incalculable fund of goodwill towards the United States.
Foreign assistance accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget but saves millions of lives every year. USAID provides assistance to tens of millions affected by natural disasters, drought and conflict and responds to the needs of people facing severe hunger and famine. Each year the United Nations, which receives U.S. funds, provides food to 80 million people in 80 countries, vaccinates millions of children and assists those displaced by conflict and instability.
I witnessed firsthand the lifesaving power that the U.S. has had during my career at the U.S. Centers and Disease Control and Prevention, serving as the Director of the Center for Global Health and as Country Director in several African nations. Slashing funds available for U.S. and local health organizations that are active abroad will risk degrading local health systems that will be vital to fighting the next major outbreak of contagious diseases that can spread across the world like Ebola did. We need these partnerships with partner nations during epidemics to help protect Americans.
As the UN warns of potentially the biggest humanitarian crisis in its history – with 20 million people in need of urgent food aid in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Northeastern Nigeria, these sweeping budget cuts are clearly the wrong move at the wrong time.
NGOs like Project HOPE are well aware of the pressures on the public purse, but hope that the administration will consider the broader implications of U.S. foreign assistance programs.
Those of us who work in the international development sector note that cutting USAID budgets will not measurably improve the nation’s fiscal picture. U.S. foreign aid amounts to less than one percent of the overall federal budget. The Pentagon’s top brass, while welcoming their budget hike has warned however that diplomatic and humanitarian engagement are some of the most important tools in projecting U.S. power to expand stability abroad.
Aid programs should not just be seen as a giveaway but as a vital plank of any strategy to keep America safe. We know for instance that global threats like extremism, bio-terrorism and public health emergencies like Ebola can be fostered in conditions of poverty and deprivation.
The United States can continue its global leadership - and preserve its own national interests - with a continued budget of $60 billion across all accounts.
I recently returned from Sierra Leone, a country full of vibrant people and a beautiful landscape. Sierra Leone was named by the Portuguese, because its vista looks like a lion.
Sadly though, Sierra Leone has been plagued by a single industry mining economy, civil war and a recent Ebola epidemic, a disease that took a huge toll on the health profession, citizenship and the country’s economic development. Today, Sierra Leone has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world and I have been told that since the Ebola epidemic, the country of six million people currently has less than 100 doctors and no neonatal specialists.
But there is HOPE. Project HOPE began working in Sierra Leone during the Ebola epidemic with deliveries of medicines, needed supplies and even several self-contained, relocatable clinics. Thankfully, Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free a year ago. Since then, our work has progressed to supporting local health care workers eager for training, including learning simple but lifesaving techniques, to help save the lives of babies and mothers.
One of those techniques is Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). In a country where hospitals do not have reliable electricity, incubators for premature babies and oxygenation equipment is mostly non-existent, just the simple technique of mothers providing consistent skin-to-skin contact with their newborns, especially preterm babies, can save lives.
Project HOPE volunteers are teaching KMC to medical teams in a few hospitals in Sierra Leone. The intimate, constant contact with their mothers allows babies to sleep better, conserve more energy, keep their body temperatures regulated and also helps with growth.
But there is so much more to do. I witnessed with my own eyes, that training is not enough. In Sierra Leone medical facilities, new mothers and babies are often separated by long distances within the hospital setting itself. In one particular hospital I visited, babies were kept .2 miles from their mothers. A woman, who just gave birth, needed to walk almost a quarter of a mile to feed and warm her baby. Can you imagine? And even when a mother was able to retrieve her baby, the mother came back to a room with a non-reclining bed, sometimes sharing that bed with another mother, and was forced to sit straight up in the bed to kangaroo her infant. Project HOPE is working to establish properly equipped designated KMC rooms in these facilities that will allow mothers and babies to be together in safe and comfortable surroundings.
We need your help. We want to provide proper beds, help hospitals upgrade their facilities so mothers and babies are closer together, and provide additional essential equipment and supplies to support the dedicated, but few medical teams in Sierra Leone with lifesaving training.
By supporting the #SaveNewbornsNow campaign you can provide lifesaving care to mothers and newborns in Sierra Leone and other places around the world, where moms and infants need your help.
The need is real, and it is huge, but you can make a difference.
Last spring, we told you the story of Baby Tom Kenyon Smith from Sierra Leone. Baby Tom Kenyon was born premature, along with his twin, in a Bo District Hospital of Sierra Leone. Sadly, his twin did not survive. But with the nurturing and care of Project HOPE volunteers, Baby Tom and his young mother grew strong and were able to return to their home soon after the birth. The family was so grateful for the care and support provided by HOPE volunteers, they honored HOPE by naming Tom after Project HOPE’s CEO, Dr. Tom Kenyon.
We have continued to check on Baby Tom over the last year, and his progress continues to do well. In fact, he is growing normally and thriving with the love and care of his family.
On my last visit, Baby Tom was seven months old. As you can see in these photos, Baby Tom is doing beautifully. He’s a very happy baby, sociable and with a great temperament. More importantly in a typical African family setting, he's surrounded and supported by his extended family, including paternal grandparents, aunties and loads of cousins.
Project HOPE continues to work in Sierra Leone, teaching Kangaroo Mother Care to save babies lives. The simple intervention, of providing consistent skin-to-skin contact with mother and baby is giving newborns, especially premature newborns, a better chance of survival in an environment where incubators are not available or electricity not reliable.
Thank you for your continuing support. And please consider supporting our #SaveNewbornsNow campaign.
An ELNEC (End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium) training was recently held at Wuhan University HOPE School of Nursing in China. Carma Erickson-Hurt, an ELNEC Instructor and Project HOPE volunteer, gave the two-day seminar which included information about palliative care, pain and symptom management, communication, ethics, loss, grief, bereavement and care during the final hours.
In China, palliative care and hospice care are in the very beginning stages of development. Concepts such as pain management, symptom management, bereavement, social and psychological issues that accompany serious illness are not well addressed in the plan of care. Most doctors and nurses have not received any formal education in palliative care. In a country of over a billion people there are fewer than 50 hospices and only a handful of palliative care programs. In Wuhan, a city of over 10 million, there is one small hospice staffed with one doctor and four nurses. The support and resources for palliative care and hospice is inadequate to meet the needs of an aging population facing chronic diseases and a significantly increasing cancer rate. It is imperative that holistic palliative care is incorporated in the treatment plan.
The training was very interactive and participants shared many case examples of the challenges they have faced in addressing pain and psychological care of very sick patients. We discussed the cases and various interventions and alternatives nurses could use in their daily practice caring for patients. We did several case studies and role plays, to act out appropriate conversations and responses to various scenarios. Some participants became emotional as they shared difficult situations they encountered and how they felt powerless to address the situation. After the course, I worked with several inpatient units on their sick patient rounds and as a team we discussed various cases. The post course rounding was very effective as it helped nurses to utilize their new knowledge at the bedside.
One area that really seemed to appeal to the nurses was how they could use humanistic interventions such as touch, empathy and conversation skills learned in this course to approach care. Nurses realized that there are many interventions they can provide in caring for patients and families and those interventions are not limited to medications. The nurses began to realize the concept of “quality of life” as part of the care they can provide.
One of my biggest breakthroughs was in the ICU. I discussed with the nurse and doctors the importance of talking to patients, even if they are comatose or intubated and may not be able to verbally reply. Although this is common practice in the United States, in China it is not.
There was a 15-year-old patient in the ICU for several weeks; he had developed sepsis and was intubated. I discussed with one of the ICU residents the importance of talking to the patient and the next day she told me, “I told his mother to touch him and get close to him, touch him and talk to him.” Although this may seem basic to many ICU staff in the U.S., in China this was not a typical approach to care as the focus is usually on the medications and technical interventions. The humanistic piece is not always addressed.
This ICU resident was so happy that she could tell the mother of this patient what she could do. She felt empowered that she could not only help the patient, but also help his mother. The ICU resident now wants to learn more about palliative care.
Several days later a young nursing student from the HOPE School of Nursing had this same 15-year-old patient. As a student, she felt a bit overwhelmed as to what she could do. I taught her to get up close to the patient, touch him and look into his eyes and just have a conversation; tell him what day it is, what the weather is like, what is happening in the city, or whatever she thought she could tell him about current events. The student did this and as she talked to the patient, his eyes moved toward her and he was actively listening to her. Such a seemingly small intervention, but so very important for psychological care. As important as classroom education is, the bedside mentoring piece is equally important for staff to see the knowledge put into practice.
Because of this training an interdisciplinary “palliative care work group” has been developed. This group plans to create simulation training scenarios and will initiate discussions with hospital leadership on the way forward in developing palliative care.
What an exciting year!
Labels: Africa , Americas , China, Haiti, Macedonia, United States , Global Health Expertise, Disaster-Relief, Chronic Disease, Humanitarian Aid, NEXTGen, Women’s and Children’s Health, Health Care Education, Partners, Infectious Disease, Health Systems Strengthening, Volunteers
Our programs and professionals made tangible strides in building health capacity across the globe in 2016. Our volunteers inspired health workers every day in hospitals and clinics that serve the most vulnerable patients – newborns and their mothers.In Sierra Leone, HOPE volunteers shared lifesaving skills in neo-natal and maternal care with local nurses whose determination is matched only by our drive to improve the quality of health care in a place of great need.
When Haiti plunged back into crisis after Hurricane Matthew struck, threatening to undo the country’s hard work in rebuilding after the 2010 earthquake, HOPE medical volunteers rushed to support doctors and nurses at St. Therese Hospital in Nippes.
In Central Asia our teams were at the forefront of amazing innovations in TB detection and treatment, giving Project HOPE a voice at international forums.
In Africa, we were on the frontlines, improving treatment for people living with HIV and are fiercely determined to work with partners seeking to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
In Europe, HOPE was there for thousands of people trapped in the migration crisis in Macedonia, in need of medicines and health care.
And closer to home, I was thrilled to see the Health Affairs journal, published by Project HOPE, expand its coverage of global health this year. I’m confident the journal will continue to be a crucial platform for the nation’s leading policy experts as a new administration takes office next month.
The global health challenges that await us in 2017 are enormous indeed. With a deeply dedicated staff at our headquarters in Virginia and offices around the world as well as the goodwill of our volunteers and continuing support of our dedicated supporters, we are poised to live up to our mission with even greater impact in 2017!
Check out more of HOPE’s lifesaving stories from 2016!
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