Intervening for Child Refugees in Uganda

Global Ministries partner, Medical Teams International, diagnosed baby Brenda with severe malnutrition and malaria and intervened to provide medicine and nutritional supplements.

By Tyler Graf and Bella DiFilippo*

Eight-month-old Brenda grasped at her mother Sabrina’s finger. It was covered with a tasty nutritious supplement called PlumpyNut. After weeks of worry, Sabrina smiled as her youngest child devoured the food. At just 20 years old, Sabrina already has three children, and they mean everything to her.

Sabrina holds her daughter, Brenda, while feeding her the supplement, PlumpyNut, provided by Medical Teams International. PHOTO: SEAN SHERIDAN

Along with Sabrina and her family, hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese live in Rhino Camp, a refugee settlement in northern Uganda. Sabrina’s family is new to Rhino Camp. They arrived two months ago from South Sudan, where war and hunger drove them away. Sabrina’s husband was ambushed and killed when he traveled from Juba to a small town called Magwa.

At Rhino Camp, Brenda developed a cough and a fever. Sabrina brought her to the clinic. There, doctors from Global Ministries’ partner, Medical Teams International (MTI) determined Brenda was severely malnourished. They also tested Brenda and discovered she had malaria as well. This is a serious and potentially deadly combination – one that is on the rise in Rhino Camp where malaria is rife. The United Methodist Church, Global Ministries awarded a grant to MTI to support testing and treatment of refugees in Rhino Camp to combat this preventable and deadly disease.

Malnutrition coupled with skyrocketing malaria rates have filled Rhino Camp’s clinic with anxious mothers and their sick children. At the nearby testing station, a clinic worker feverishly scrambled to keep up with demand, testing babies’ blood and, quite often, seeing positive results for malaria.

MTI supplied baby Brenda with anti-malarial drugs that quickly improved her condition.

“It is very hard for me,” Sabrina said, “because I lost my husband, and I have three children.” It is easy to lose hope. But in her children, Sabrina sees promise for the future. She is determined to stay strong for them—and to keep her children strong in the process.

Led by Global Ministries’ Global Health unit, the Abundant Health initiative of The United Methodist Church aims to reach 1 million children with lifesaving interventions by 2020. Global Ministries’ partnership with MTI contributes to this number, as children like Brenda are reached through medical treatment. To support Abundant Health programs, give to Advance #3021770.

*Written by Tyler Graf of Medical Teams International, and Bella DiFilippo, communication specialist for Global Ministries

World AIDS Day: Ending the Negative Impact of HIV-AIDS

This World AIDS Day, Global Ministries joins the fight to end the negative impact of HIV.

By Bella DiFilippo*

HIV and AIDS continue to be a major public health issue in countries around the world. But wherever HIV is spreading, The United Methodist Church is there to provide care for those living with the virus and to address stigma. 

Stigma and discrimination weigh heavily on those living with HIV. Through Global Ministries funding support, The United Methodist Church is finding ways to eliminate fears around the virus.

United Methodist Church of Nigeria’s health coordinator, Joyce Madanga, oversees the implementation of MNCH program at the Mutum Biyu Clinic in Nigeria. PHOTO COURTESY OF UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF NIGERIA

Nigeria has the second-largest HIV epidemic in the world, affecting all population groups within the country. In response to the epidemic, The United Methodist Church in Nigeria implements maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) programs in United Methodist health clinics. Pregnant women are encouraged to have prenatal care and to receive testing for HIV and counseling. “There is follow-up through each delivery and postnatal-care checkups for the first two years of a child’s life,” said Joyce Madanga, health coordinator for UMC Nigeria’s MNCH services. Health workers say that as members of the community learn more about HIV and AIDS, fear and stigma are greatly reduced.

“When everyone is being tested, people aren’t so afraid,” said Madanga. “We are training more advocates than ever before,” she said. “Even the husbands are coming to learn their HIV status.”

Mr. Kunda moderates a live radio session at Radio Icengelo, in Zambia. This radio program offers information about HIV and AIDS, answers call-ins who have questions, and encourages listeners to get tested at local clinics. PHOTO COURTESY OF BWAFWANO CARE PROVIDERS

Healthcare organizations in Zambia and the Philippines are also addressing the rapid spread of HIV among children. In Zambia, community health workers provide education on preventing mother-to-child transmission to women who test positive for HIV. By dispelling fears and myths around HIV for pregnant mothers, more women are learning they can give birth to healthy babies, even if they test positive for the virus.

In the Philippines, United Methodist-affiliated Mary Johnston Hospital provides testing and treatment for adolescents in Manila, who have a high risk for contracting HIV. With funding from Global Ministries, these organizations will reach thousands of mothers and children, contributing to The United Methodist Church’s Abundant Health initiative goal to reach 1 million children with lifesaving interventions by 2020.

Global Ministries is committed to the health needs of those living in the margins in the United States as well.

“When we moved to Atlanta, we looked around to see what the community health needs were,” said Sabrina Rodgers, program manager for Global Health’s U.S. Health program. “We found HIV to be a big problem, especially in the same ZIP code where Global Ministries’ headquarters is located.”

In metro-Atlanta, Global Ministries works in partnership with two organizations that actively serve homeless, at-risk youth who identify as gay, bisexual, and transgender, and are at high risk for contracting HIV. Through Global Ministries’ funding support, Someone Cares Inc. and Lost N Found will reach 1,150 homeless youth in the Atlanta area through preventive care, testing, and education.

Global Ministries partners with Lost-N-Found Youth, based in the metro-Atlanta area, to offer free HIV counseling, testing, and referrals to Atlanta’s youth ages 13-25. PHOTO: LOST N FOUND YOUTH

“We felt compelled to respond as a sign of our commitment to the health needs of those living in the margins, not just in the United States, but globally,” said Rodgers. “Our partnership with these organizations counts toward The United Methodist Church’s Abundant Health initiative to reach 1 million children with lifesaving interventions.”

You can help end the epidemic

Global Ministries works closely with the United Methodist Global AIDS Committee in their efforts to reduce stigma related to HIV. Together, they support projects focused on preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS, improving access to testing and treatment, and increasing capacity building in countries where the virus is prevalent.

Consider donating to Advance #982345 to support Global Ministries and UMGAC’s work around HIV-AIDS. Together, we can end the epidemic.

*Bella DiFilippo is the communications specialist from Mission Engagement for Global Ministries

Safe Water for Mayan Communities in Guatemala

By Bella DiFilippo*

Maria Santos Baquiax, a young married mother of two, lives in the Santa Apolonia area of Guatemala. Laden with two heavy jugs and a baby strapped to her back, she often walked 12 times a day to collect water for her family. Although the water was contaminated, Maria used it for cooking, laundry, and personal hygiene.

Today, thanks to a partnership between the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Asociación Bienestar Progreso Desarollo (ABPD), Maria and other Mayan families now enjoy safe water at home and a better life as a result.

Workers from ABPD work with members of the local community to connect pipes that will provide a fresh water source to the village. PHOTO COURTESY OF ABPD

With funding from UMCOR, ABPD is building clean-water systems and latrines and educating communities on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Together, Global Ministries and ABPD empower communities to achieve sustainable development, improving the lives of 1,600 men, women, and children.

“Since I was young,” Maria told ABPD in an interview, “life was always hard in this village because of the lack of water. I did my family’s laundry in nearby ponds, which were about half a kilometer (one-third mile) from the community.

“When I got married and moved out,” she added, “I had to collect water 12 times a day. I carried a jug on my head, another in my hands, and sometimes I carried my baby on my back. In total, I carried over 75 pounds. All of my mornings, every day, were spent collecting water. I didn’t have enough time to economically support my husband.”

Then, ABPD and UMCOR came to the village. Now Maria simply turns on a faucet to collect all the water her family needs.

Maria Santos Baquaix demonstrates how easy it is for her to turn on the newly installed water spigot. PHOTO COURTESY OF ABPD

“My life is totally changed,” Maria said. “Doing all this takes me only an hour or two every day, which has allowed me to have time to harvest strawberries with my husband and sell them in the market.”

With access to clean water, diarrhea or skin problems are no longer threats. “In the past,” she continued, “many children died from not being treated in time for water-borne illnesses, like diarrhea, but now the risk is greatly reduced.”

The entire community owns the water project. “We all use clean water now,” Maria says. “Families are practicing better hygiene, and we all have a better understanding about the importance of washing our hands.”

UMCOR WASH programs in Cho Antonio, Guatemala, and other places bring life-changing impact to impoverished communities. Your gift to Advance #3020600, UMCOR Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Program, will make a difference as individuals and families gain health and hope through clean water. Thank you!

UMCOR WASH is part of the Abundant Health initiative.

*Bella DiFilippo is Communications Specialist from Mission Engagement for Global Ministries