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Published on 18 August, 2011

Quiet disaster easily stoppable

International (MNN) — What could be responsible for more deaths than both the Haiti and Japan earthquakes combined? Surely such a tragic disaster would plaster the headlines of every newspaper in the country.

Preventable diseases are responsible for the deaths of 9 to 10 million children every year. Even the highest estimates of those dead from Japan and Haiti's earthquakes add up to around 168,000.

However, preventable diseases go rather unrecognized in comparison to other crises.

Bas Vanderzalm with Medical Teams International (MTI) says, "That's a quiet disaster. We often know about famines, and we know about wars and conflicts, but there are these other terrible things going on as well."

Often diseases run rampant due to poor living conditions. Lack of clean water, food and sanitation tend to bring on malaria and diarrheic diseases. Also, parents in impoverished situations who lack adequate  hygiene can unknowingly put their children in jeopardy.

The raw statistics at times can be overwhelming. How much of a difference can one person make? Vanderzalm states, "As I look at it, as a Christian I think to myself, ‘Well, I can't change the entire world, but I need to do what I can.'"

Medical Teams International definitely does all they can. They have been shipping medical and humanitarian aid since 1986. In just the last year alone, they sent $189 million worth of aid supplies to 47 countries.

When Medical Teams International brings aid, they try to target the poorest communities with the greatest needs. They come in with their medical teams and volunteers and not only bring treatments for the issues, but also target the root causes of the issues. This can mean anything from bringing bed nettings in malaria prevention to providing clean water resources.

According to Vanderzalm, it doesn't take much to make a difference. "For $10, you can prevent malaria. For $5, you can provide clean water to a person that would help a child. All of that would reduce the number of children who are dying."

Ultimately, their mission is to show Christ's love along with the aid they provide. Medical Teams International always works alongside local churches or Christian organizations to make it obvious that they are assisting in the name of Christ.

"We provide the healthcare and address some of the health problems," says Vanderzalm. "But we trust that the local churches with which we work will pray with people, will reach their arms out to people, and will also share the love of Christ with them in a language they understand and a culture they're familiar with."

To contribute to the work of Medical Teams International and combat preventable disease, click here.

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