The global refugee crisis impacts all of us, not just the people in the countries that have the most refugees like Gaza, South Sudan and Afghanistan. In fact, according to Martha Holley Newsome, president and CEO of Medical Teams International, there are 4.9 million refugees from Syria alone and a record 65.3 million people worldwide who are displaced by conflict or persecution.
At a recent Medical Teams event, “Healthy Women, Healthy World,” hosted by Cambia Health Solutions, Martha emphasized the plight of women refugees who, in many cases, are the only parents left to fend for their families and those responsible for easing the trauma their families have suffered. While Medical Teams’ mission is focused on providing physical care for those experiencing displacement, conflict and poverty, Martha shared how addressing mental health challenges is just as important.
"When thinking about refugees, most people visualize long lines at border crossings, the work of international aid organizations to provide food and medical supplies, and the need for suitable temporary housing. But mental health is one area that often gets overlooked.” said Martha. “Refugees generally experience significant trauma, and those experiences are largely left untreated.”
Given that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Martha’s stories of the refugees she has worked with were especially poignant. Martha shared the personal story of a Syrian refugee named Amina who has been in a refugee camp for five years after all four of her sons were killed. She and her surviving daughters have little hope for the future and they suffer every day from the painful impact of losing their family members. Fortunately for Amina and other refugees like her, Medical Teams is expanding its network of psychiatrists and other mental health experts who can specifically address the emotional wellbeing of their patients.
Cambia was founded 100 years ago on the idea of neighbor helping neighbor and transformative partnerships like the one with Medical Teams that tackle critical health issues, bring that vision to scale. For the past three years, in addition to supporting mobile dental vans in Oregon and Washington, Cambia and Medical Teams are investing in technology innovation that improves the coordination of health care in Uganda, delivers better health outcomes for refugees and makes a global impact on health care. This work aligns with Cambia’s efforts to be a catalyst for health care transformation. To learn more about this project, read “Cambia Returns to Uganda with Medical Teams International” or “Reflections and Updates from Cambia and Medical Teams International Partnership in Uganda.”