MEDICAL ASSISTANCE TO REMOTE COMMUNITIES:

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

October 23, 2001

A COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE HOPE ALLIANCE
AND THE VANUATU MINISTRY OF HEALTH

Dear Editor,

In June, July, August and September of this year several medical, dental and educational volunteer teams supported by two small, seagoing sailing vessels (the 44 foot catamaran "Flying Angel" and the 43 foot staysail sloop "Rivendel II") visited North Ambrym and South East Malekula on behalf of Project MARC (Medical Assistance to Remote Communities), a collaborative agreement between The Hope Alliance and the Vanuatu Ministry of Health.

The official Memorandum of Understanding was signed in March 2001 by both parties and has an initial lifetime of 3 years. The Hope Alliance (http://www.hopealliance.com) is a U.S.-based, nonsectarian humanitarian aid organization sponsoring medical, educational and micro-economic support programs in Africa (Ghana), South America (Peru), The Caribbean (Haiti), North America (Navajo reservation, Hispanic immigrants) and Oceania (Vanuatu).

With the enthusiastic help of numerous local ni-Vanuatu officials and villagers on Éfaté, Ambrym, Malekula and Espiritu Santo, as well as the support of many expatriates, including the crews of more than a dozen cruising sailboats from all over the world, Project MARC teams were able to treat over 2000 patients from over 40 different villages.

Logistic problems inherent in operating in these remote communities were solved by using catamaran-based and land-based tent clinics, as well as "open air" clinics and, finally, by visiting any patients unable to walk to the clinic sites in their own huts.

Furthermore, our teams examined the dental health of hundreds of school children; re-supplied one health center, two dispensaries and four aid posts; trained 16 local health workers and helped start up or restart six aid posts and one dispensary. Altogether, five MDs, three DDs, three RNs, four medical assistants, three teachers and six technicians participated in the team activities. All volunteers, representing several different countries, paid for their own travel and accommodation costs.

In May 2002 we are planning to establish small outpatient clinics north of Ranon (N. Ambrym), in Banam Bay (SE Malekula) and on Sakao Island (The Maskelynes). These clinics will be operated by four to five person volunteer teams, each staying approximately one month, during the dry season while local health workers will be trained in order to keep the clinics open throughout the wet season and eventually take over year-round operation of the clinics with continuing logistic and technical support from The Hope Alliance.

Meanwhile, local primary schools as well as the secondary school in Ranon will keep getting supplies and student fellowship support from "sister Schools" in the U.S. as well as personal teaching assistance from Project MARC volunteers (especially in the areas of personal health, nutrition and child care). Finally, in 2002 the Hope Alliance wants to make a start with the development of micro-economic support programs for the Vanuatu communities its teams are working in.

The Project MARC website (www.terrawatch.org), currently hosted by TerraWatch House, contains a wealth of information about the organizational and logistic aspects, including detailed trip reports and a photo album with over 200 images showing this year’s exploits on N. Ambrym and SE Malekula.* Please visit and feel free to leave your comments on the Public Forum bulletin board or write us for further information if you would like to participate in some way.

Dr. and Mrs. Henk and Nelleke Meuzelaar Project MARC Coordinators

*To successfully navigate the www.terrawatch.org website, click on the Discussion Forum icon below the lighthouse and follow the links to the various Project MARC message, story and bulletin boards. 

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