In this newscast we regularly feature persons who need medical assistance but do not have the financial means. The income of many households coupled with the level of unemployment makes it impossible for many families to afford health care. It’s a sign of the tough economic times so when a visiting medical team offered free services, in one district alone, some five thousand persons turned up. News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports.

Delahnie Bain, Reporting

Medical care is a necessity, but with over forty percent of the population living in poverty, it is a luxury that many families cannot afford, particularly in some rural areas. But for the past twenty years, the US Southern Command has been providing assistance through its Medical Readiness Training Exercises, offering free health care services. The team has been in Belize for almost two weeks, working in the Orange Walk District.

Tech Sergeant Patricia Monahan, Coordinator, MEDRETE

“We went to San Antonio first. We were there for one day. We saw approximately five hundred patients there. Then we spent three days in San Felipe and I think the total there was maybe seven hundred patients and then we went to San Estevan. We were there for two days and in Guinea Grass, we’ve been here since Monday.”

Vinai Thummalapally

Vinai Thummalapally, U.S. Ambassador

“A total of forty people, mostly from the Washington DC area; it’s an Air Force Group referred to as a Humanitarian Medical Readiness Group. It comprises of several doctors, dentists, nurses, there’s an optometrists, some support staff, pharmacists as well. A total of forty people are here from the US for almost two weeks and an incredible five thousand patients have been seen, treated and so on.”

That’s a record for the MEDRETE team, which was facilitated in Guinea Grass by the Roman Catholic School. The success is attributed to the collaborative efforts between both local and US personnel.

Leonardo Can, Vice Principal, Guinea Grass Roman Catholic School

“It was a collaboration between Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education along with the school to help and assist the people from this village and surrounding villages who came here to get some assistance from the Medical group from the USA.”

Tech Sgt. Patricia Monahan

Patricia Monahan

“The local nurses have been awesome, they’ve been so helpful. We couldn’t have done it without them. they’ve been just amazing; stepping wherever they are needed, they’ve been assisting with translating, patient care, helping us keep track of who is who and where they need to go. They’ve really been great.”

Vinai Thummalapally, US Ambassador

“I would like to extend a huge thank you to the Ministries of Health, Education and the B.D.F. as well and of course to the US team. It makes me feel very proud to be U.S. Ambassador, to come here and to meet all these folks.”

Leonardo Can

Vice Principal, Leonardo Can, was especially pleased that the RC School was involved because his community had the greatest benefit.

Leonardo Can

“I feel very happy from the people who came here because according to the records, we attended more than two thousand people [in Guinea Grass]. They assisted us very good, the medical group here really did help the people here in assisting them with medicines, checkups and providing them with a little of everything; vitamins, de-worming and so on. And people were happy because some of them even came to get their glasses and so on.”

And according to U.S. Ambassador, Vinai Thummalapally, there’s more assistance on the way for the residence in the north.

Vinai Thummalapally

“I just learned this morning that the demand is so high here; I don’t know the specific details but there is another team, a smaller team coming back here in May; the second week of May for a few days of work. It’s similar in nature but it’s not this same team, it’s another U.S. team coming down to do similar work. At the end of the day, it’s about people. When we talk about collaborative efforts or bilateral relationships, this is really what we should be talking about and we are talking about that and doing something about it.”

Delahnie Bain for News Five.

Now that the work is over, the team will spend the next few days getting to know the jewel.

Channel 5