Monday, August 9, 2010

Project HOPE's Dr. Nasar Sheldon Visits Pacific Partnership Volunteers in Indonesia

Project HOPE has a history of medical missions within Indonesia spanning 50 years, but it was the relationships forged during the 2004 Tsunami response that lay the groundwork for Project HOPE’s continuing presence in Indonesia.

During Project HOPE and the USNS Mercy’s recent stop in Ambon, the Director of HOPE’s Indonesia Operations, Dr. Nasar Sheldon, visited the ship and went on MEDCAPS with HOPE volunteers. During his time on board he shared news with us of the exciting work being done in his country, day in and day out. It’s a common feeling for volunteers to leave MEDCAPs frustrated by their inability to follow up with their patients, so it was heartening for the team to hear about Project HOPE’s contributions to sustainable health care systems in Indonesia. Many people still associate Project HOPE primarily with “the big white ship,” but, in fact, the majority of work done by Project HOPE worldwide is conducted in land-based efforts.

In Indonesia, Dr. Sheldon directs a staff of 32, most of whom are Indonesians working in areas in which they have a network of relationships. Most of their work has been in Nagan Raya, the province just south of Banda Aceh, and the area hardest hit by the tsunami. In 2005, Project HOPE and local health officials agreed on two goals: Establish basic and referral services, and restore and improve health care services for mothers and children in the Nagan Raya Province. The challenge was enormous. Even before the tsunami, the area’s health care resources had been ravaged by thirty years of conflict and war.

Nasar shared some results from Project HOPE's work in Indonesia:

•1,3oo community health volunteers have been trained

•229 village midwives have been trained

•200 health care providers have been trained in the World Health Organization's Integrated Management of Children’s Health Illnesses protocols.

•400 Elementary school teachers in 127 schools are implementing a health education program geared to 5th graders, designed to make children and families more aware of health care resources in their communities.

I hasn’t been easy, but five years later, the successes in NR are many. Millions of dollars have supported facility and equipment development, resulting in the establishment or upgrading of 247 Posyandrus (health clinics.) They’ve served 122,000 people, including 25,000 women of childbearing age, and 17,000 children aged five years or less.

Dr. Sheldon is a native of Indonesia, and has experienced the country’s decade-long emergence from totalitarian rule to democracy. The ability to communicate openly and directly has been essential to the forging of strong relationships between Project HOPE staff and district health officials.

Our medical mission is winding down, and the opportunity to meet this key player in Project HOPE’s worldwide reach has been fascinating for those of us who care so much about Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.

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