Countering Malnutrition in the Dominican
by Ed Jopeck
Medical Missionaries continued its efforts to reduce hunger and improve health
and nutrition in the Dominican Republic with a multi-faceted trip to the Province of Elias Piña (towns of Banica and
Pedro Santana) in June 2016. This unique trip included distribution of hundreds of boxes of USAID-supplied food (protein and
vitamin-enriched soup), and included clinics that provided nutritional assessment and basic medical services to some 300 people
in the region.
The trip began on June 26 when four Medical Missionaries volunteers from the Washington, D.C area met with two USAID
representatives at the US Embassy in Santo Domingo before driving 160 miles across the country to Medical Missionaries' warehouse
near the border with Haiti. Once there, the team prepared to distribute food, conduct clinics addressing medical and nutritional
needs over the next few days, all while being observed and photographed by USAID representatives.
In Banica the US-based team linked-up with local counterparts already in the province (American Catholic Priest Fr.
Keith O’Hare, Brazilian Nun, Sister Gracias, Medical Missionaries project manager Tom Brock, and local driver “Nañao”
Cedano). Over the course of the next week the team traveled to the remote villages of Pueblo Nuevo, Guayahayuco, and Hato
Alto to conduct medical clinics and assessments designed to better understand the nutritional and medical needs of the people
in these remote areas where medical services are out of reach for most residents. The team was generously assisted at these
locations by a variety of US Peace Corps representatives who live and work in those villages.
“The clinics were part of a larger program to collect data to help improve the impact of food aid and medical
services activities in the country,” said Ed Jopeck who manages the USAID food aid program for Medical Missionaries.
Each year that a grant is awarded to Medical Missionaries, USAID provides 112 metric tons of the shelf-stable, prepackaged
food aid and some funds to support its distribution. The food aid, generously provided through USAID as a gift of food from
the American people, fills six full shipping containers and provides approximately 7 million meals to 11,000 people over the
course of 9-10 months. The clinics, which included an assessment of dietary habits of the attendees, revealed that many people
eat only once a day, some depending solely on the USAID soup to feed their family. Others who ate more frequently reported
the donated soup was their main source of nutrition for two, or even three meals a day.
While the clinics were ongoing, parts of the team continued the delivery of food to remote villages in the mountainous
region to the north. The scenery in the mountains was breath-taking but the rock and dirt roads were punishing on both the
vehicles and those inside them. The trips to the mountains during the rainy season are difficult and frequently result in
flat tires and routinely getting stuck in the mud. This trip was also packed with visits to farms where the team learned
more about new agriculture and livestock programs, challenges with water delivery and treatment, and other needs that Medical
Missionaries also seeks to address.
The team is pleased
to report that the food aid really seems to be making a positive difference in the lives of the Dominicans and Haitian refugees
living in this remote region along the border. “Yes, more needs to be done to further improve health, access to safe
water and economic growth in the region”, said Jopeck, “It is the volunteers and the work on trips like this that
help us to know where our efforts can have the greatest impact on the needs of the good people here.”
Return To Newsletter Index