By DAVID HILMERS – Chief Medical Officer
Dear Friends of HBF,
We continue to be grateful for your faithful support and encouragement. Like many humanitarian groups whose mission is to improve the health of underserved communities across the globe, we have faced unprecedented challenges during the times of COVID-19. Despite lockdowns, travel restrictions, closed borders, and fierce outbreaks, we continue to move forward.
At our home base in Sydney, Australia our volunteers have been under lockdown for over a month as a result of an outbreak of the delta variant of COVID-19. The lockdown restricts travel and gatherings within Sydney itself and hindered our usual efforts at community outreach, such as screening and educational programs, on World Hepatitis Day in July. The ban on international travel for Australian citizens continues in place as it has for the past year.
Almost every country that we serve has suffered increasing case loads during the past few months. The situation in Myanmar is desperate. It is projected that nearly half the population could be infected in the coming months. The political situation due to a military takeover in the country has made it more difficult to obtain outside assistance. While our treatment program in Putao continues, our colleagues there have been called to devote more time to the COVID outbreak. North Korea remains locked down, and its borders are unlikely to be opened for the foreseeable future. Very little news has arrived from the country, but it appears that there are widespread food shortages. Some of our Pacific Island partners have seen recent increases in cases. Fiji with a population of less than 900,000 is experiencing about 1000 cases per day. Infections in Papua New Guinea have decreased from their recent peak, but the case count is likely to be significantly under-reported because of geographic isolation and lack of infrastructure.
How are we meeting the challenges?
Despite the seemingly never-ending pandemic, we continue to press forward.
- Web-based training sessions and case discussions continue for our partners in Myanmar, Kiribati, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and other Pacific Islands.
- Through a grant, we have hired a physician, Thomas Russell, from Kiribati to be a consultant for our program to prevent maternal to child transmission of hepatitis B in his home country.
- We are in discussions with a local physician on Christmas Island (Kiritimati) to support a hepatitis B treatment program.
- Medications, diagnostic equipment and consumables, test kits, and office supplies continue to be purchased and shipped to our partners.
- We continue to collaborate with other partners in the region, including the World Health Organization, and participated with them in the recent World Hepatitis Day activities.
We are so thankful that you continue to support our efforts. We could not continue without you. We pray for the health of you and your loved ones, as well as the millions of people in the countries we serve who are deeply affected by the pandemic.
With gratitude and hope,