Nonprofit to deliver vaccines to help kids

Posted: September 17, 2013

The Winchester Star

MILLWOOD — Project HOPE, the Clarke County nonprofit group that works to improve health conditions around the world, will deliver 186,000 doses of donated vaccine to refugee camps in Jordan.

Due to the conflict in Syria, 2 million people have fled to neighboring countries to escape the fighting.

Hundreds of thousands of them are children, who are more susceptible to disease and infections in the crowded camp conditions. It is estimated that 75 percent of the children are under the age of 11.

Fred Gerber, Project HOPE’s director of special programs and operations, is in Jordan this week to oversee the delivery and distribution of the vaccine.

“I’ve visited the refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq to assess medical needs,” he said.

The medicine will combat rotavirus, which can be a serious threat to children living in crowded conditions, he said. The virus causes vomiting and diarrhea, which leads to severe dehydration.

“It can be incredibly deadly for children,” said Geraldine Carroll, a spokeswoman for Millwood-based Project HOPE.

The vaccine can prevent children from getting the virus.

The RotaTeq vaccine was donated by the global pharmaceutical company Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada.

Since February, Project HOPE has been working in close coordination with the governments of Syria’s neighbors — Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq — along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to provide humanitarian assistance and relief services for Syrian refugees in camps in those countries and Turkey and Lebanon.

In Iraq, Project HOPE helped create the first new hospital constructed since the early 1980s in Basrah, filled it with donated equipment and supplies and trained its staff. It is the only dedicated pediatric hospital in Iraq with a special focus on oncology.

“It’s a huge burden on a country when this sort of thing happens,” said Carroll, who is from Jordan, which has been housing refugees from Palestine for decades.

Project HOPE continues to raise funds to assist the Syrian refugees.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com