Friday, May 23, 2008

Physicians for Peace

My last piece about embarking on my mission with Physicians for Peace in Guatemala was the set-up. That was the news hit; now comes the meat.

I was quickly introduced to two serious problems facing children in this developing country: severe burns and lost limbs. But I saw hope. And a solution provided by dedicated doctors and medical practitioners with Physicians for Peace.

What has these volunteers from places sometimes facing bitter divides and even violence working so well together? A dire need. The developing world carries 90 percent of the global disease burden yet has only 10 percent of the medical resources, according to the United Nations Foundation. And most of these diseases are curable. Here in the United States, we’ve been able to receive these treatments since the 1950s.

In spite of the acute problems with our healthcare system, we do have access to many medical procedures not available in poorer countries. When, for example, the eighteen-month–old son of a poor, single mother in South Carolina fell into a fire and severely burned his hands (the son of a friend of my mother’s), he was taken to a Georgia burn center forty-five minutes away. He was then treated and then received follow-up care.

What happens to babies in Guatemala is quite the opposite. They get burned, and if they’re lucky, they receive treatment within 24 hours. Then these children and their caretakers often have to travel 12 hours – door to door -- for an aftercare rehabilitation.

As a result of PFP’s efforts, medical personnel are trained in the latest burn protocol. For example, medical students from the School of Medicine of the Francisco Morroquin University rotate in their sixth year to a village that I will be profiling in my inaugural series. It's set in Guatemala City, with PFP, where they make calls in the health center which is open 24 hours a day – all year round. I spoke to a resident named Alex, who had some fascinating thoughts on why young children end up so badly burned.

Don’t forget to tune in on June 1 for the inaugural series of “Profiles in Courage” … you can tune in on or at

1 comment:

Ron said...

While this might seem self-serving, Kate has captured what is a global tragedy--boys and girls, men and women, vulnerable,living in poverty, with little or no access to even the most basic of health care. Forever condemned to a lesser life because a fairly routine treatment was unavailable and the consequences they suffer are debilitating. We are thankful that people like Kate Bohner speak up for those less fortunate and call to the world's attention the plight of those living in the developing world.

Ron Sconyers
President and CEO
Physicians for Peace