“If you want to make an impact on maternal and child health around the world, in truly vulnerable communities, your best hope is the sisters,” said Tim Bilodeau, former executive director of Medicines for Humanity.
Global Sisters Report tells the story which in this case features Daughters of Charity in the Dominican Republic.
Seven people crammed into the ambulance in Quisqueya, Dominican Republic, about 60 miles east of Santo Domingo. Two Daughters of Charity, a doctor, two nurses, a program coordinator, and a driver — all bound to provide medical care in the nearby-impoverished bateye, a small shanty village where mostly sugar cutters live.
“I worked at a children’s clinic nearby, and kids from these bateyes would go there,” said Daughter of Charity Concepción Rivera, of Quisqueya’s team. “And I thought some of these problems could be treated in the bateye, that there’s no need for them to have to go all the way into town to the clinic for this primary attention that didn’t require a specialty.”
A lot of times they died there on site [in the bateyes] because they don’t have enough money to make it to the clinic, nor the resources in the area to cure themselves of treatable diseases, nor the awareness that they needed treatment at all.”
Rivera said that when she began with Medicines for Humanity 10 years ago (the program was founded in 1967), she constantly saw cases of diarrhea, respiratory infections, miscarriages, pregnant women dying, dermatological issues, and malnutrition.
They began a nutrition program directed at children younger than six, with their parents in attendance to make sure the kids understood how much and what kinds of foods they should eat. Since the nutrition program began in 2010, the number of malnourished children in the bateyes she visits have gone from 502 to just 15.
In the empty one-room building where the Quisqueya team had set up a clinic, mostly teenage mothers waited their turn for a routine physical, holding their toddlers or infants on their laps. While Daughter of Charity Sr. Anney Taffur — a nurse by training — led the health screenings, accompanied by the community health worker and assistants, Rivera entertained the large groups of children outside with basic health lessons, this day focused on the Zika virus.
“One story that sticks in my mind about Sister Concepción was when we had a large gathering at a church [in Quisqueya in 2013],” Bilodeau said. “I was sitting in the back, and she came running over to me and said that she wanted me to know that not one child had died that year from preventable diseases. It made my day.”