CFC Live Blogging, General Session: Kaci Hickox, Doctors Without Borders

Today Kaci talked about “from here to there”, and how leadership here in the United States makes an impact in the global community. She has worked with Doctors Without Borders (DWB) for the past 4 years, but also spoke on behalf of many other international organizations that help with education, agriculture, and finance. All of these organizations have large needs that are supported by the CFC.

Kaci is a public health nurse and tropical disease specialist, but her work has ranged from primary health care to the outbreak of infectious diseases.

Medical organizations overseas meet many needs for the communities they aid. DWB works in over 60 countries, and treated 7.8 million patients in 2009 alone. There are several major issues that DWB currently focuses on:

  • Malnutrition: Currently there is a famine in East Africa, and 3 out of 10 children suffer from severe malnutrition. This problem is especially prevalent in Somalia, where there are 100,000 people displaced due to draught, war, and other political issues. These conditions can be reduced greatly with the right foods, medication, and medical expertise.
  • Epidemics: Most recently DWB has helped with the cholera outbreak in Haiti and with the meningitis outbreak in Nigeria. Both of these diseases are preventable via vaccinations. Funds from the CFC have helped pay for the costs of the vaccinations. Vaccinations were given to over 7 million people in Northern Africa alone.
  • Environmental disasters: International agencies especially need help with this issue because they need to respond quickly, but it takes a lot of money to do so. The communities need the supplies and materials faster than we can pay for it. This is a major issue, seeing that most deaths occur within the first 2 weeks after the disaster.

Kaci wrapped up her presentation with a personal story of her experience with DWB in Nigeria. Upon arrival she met a child with measles, and didn’t know what it was because she had never seen it (because of vaccinations in the US). Shortly after, Kaci had heard about another nearby mining village where 39 children died in the past 2 months. After Kaci and DWB arrived they were puzzled about the diagnosis, but were working as quickly as possible with the resources they had as more children were continuing to die. Finally they discovered that there was a lead poisoning outbreak, and the children needed chelation treatment in order to help extract the lead. This process was very expensive and took a month to complete, plus it required extensive lab facilities. Kaci felt so thankful to be there, and thankful for the DWB organization because it had so many resources and financial backing that made it possible to save these children. Kaci was touched by a mother who approached her, thanking her for not leaving and saving her child. She urged the audience to remember this story, and support the CFCNCA in order to help international organizations such as DWB.

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