Press Releases

Global Response Medicine Reynosa Project Update – November 2022


(17 November 2022, Reynosa, Tamaulipas in Mexico, several thousand people wait outside one of the main shelters, Senda de Vida. Photo credit: Brendon Tucker)

GRM REYNOSA (1 January 2022 to 31 October 2022):

REYNOSA: The Mexican Town that Acts as a Barometer for World Politics

The number of people arriving in Reynosa continues to outstrip those being allowed into the United States, causing the migrant population to grow. As a result, our outreach team is working hard to publicize our clinics and emergency services among new arrivals.

There are currently around 10,000 people on the streets of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, in northern Mexico. Although, without an official population count, we estimate that there could be as many as 15,000. Global Response (GRM) provides medical care to the population living on the streets in Reynosa’s shelters including:
Campamento Rio (~500 people), Senda de Vida I (~1700),
Senda de Vida II (~1500),
Casa Migrante (~200), and Casa de Clinica (~50).

We have tested over 30,000 people this year for COVID-19. Positive COVID results are now extremely rare.

GRM medical providers have seen almost 10,000 unique patients in Reynosa this year (in over 12,000 consultations), 1,300 of whom were seen in October. Typically, complaints are a direct result of the inhumane living conditions: skin conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, and a significant percent of maternal health cases.

Telemedicine consults are available for specialty cases and insecure locations:

  • Since the end of March 2022, we have provided over 120 pediatric telemedicine consults in conjunction with University of California San Francisco (UCSF) to residents of the Kaleo shelter in Reynosa, which our team does not physically visit as it is located to the west of the city in an area that we consider unsafe to travel.
  • We have also provided telemedicine consults to Russian patients – where we were unable to find a local translator – through a partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital. Through these consults, our team has diagnosed conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.


17 November 2022, Reynosa, Tamaulipas, GRM Volunteer, Jane Cross, pediatrician, treats a 2-year-old girl from Haiti, complaining of abdominal pain. Photo credit: Jade Bachtold

On average, we receive around one emergency call per day. The cases, varying in their urgency, have involved respiratory distress, trauma cases, maternal health complications, and emergent medical conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and appendicitis.

Recent complicated cases have involved a young boy with Tuberculosis, a husband who was diagnosed with terminal cancer while his wife was in a maternal health consult with one of our physicians, and two patients with leprosy. When appropriate resources are not available in Mexico we attempt to place patients in hospitals in the US via humanitarian parole, although unfortunately not all patients survive the wait.

Changes in Citizenship as a Reflection of World Politics:

We have noticed that the town’s population reflects global events. On 21 September 2022, Russian President Putin introduced his conscription decree. A few weeks later, the migrant population in Reynosa saw Russians, Uzbecs,

and Chechens arriving in small groups with several stating ‘avoiding conscription’ as their reason for travel.

The following graph, based on Mexican Government statistics, shows the numbers of Russians entering Mexico in 2022. While the numbers are lower than the beginning of the year, they are trending slightly upwards, which tracks with what we are seeing in Reynosa. It is worth noting that Russian citizens do not currently need a visa to enter Mexico – they can apply online for an electronic travel authorization, making it relatively easy to enter the country.

Data from the Mexican Institute for Migration 2022:

[1]

The number of Russians encountered by Customs and Border Protection was also higher in September – the most recent data – than any month since May 2022. In October, there were fewer Venezuelans encountered at the southwest border but “encounters of Cuban and Nicaraguan asylum seekers fleeing their authoritarian regimes continue to be at an historic high. This reflects the challenge that is gripping the hemisphere, as displaced populations flee authoritarianism, corruption, violence, and poverty”, said CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller.[2]

Whatever happens in the world, it tends to follow that there are changes to the migrant population in Northern Mexico. With the disruption in Haiti, our clinic population saw a significant increase in Haitians in February and May of this year, following an increase in Haitians entering Mexico at the end of 2021. We saw a sharp increase in the number of Guatemalans after the twin hurricanes in 2020 and Afghan families after the 2021 pull out of US troops. At the start of the war in Ukraine in 2022, our Mexico clinics treated Ukrainian patients whilst GRM had another team in Ukraine doing the same.

That said, in spite of the increased number of Venezuelans entering Mexico, Venezuelans are underrepresented in the migrant population in Reynosa; we have seen fewer than 10 Venezuelan patients this year.

See here for a breakdown of our clinic’s population by month and by nationality.

Additional Background to Reynosa:

Reynosa accommodation is offered on a “conveyor belt system”. New arrivals have nothing as the shelters are full, eventually they may be given a tent by those moving into a shelter space and from the shelters they may be put on a list to assess whether or not they can cross to the United States.

By way of background, many people found themselves trapped on the border after the Trump administration implemented migration policies that aimed to prevent people entering the United States. The Biden Administration entered the White House vowing to end both of these policies although to date they

remain in place with a recent court decision requiring the US Government to terminate Title 42 within the next few weeks.[3]

Note that the US Government considers Tamaulipas to be so dangerous that it has issued a stage 4 – do not travel – advisory.

[1] http://portales.segob.gob.mx/work/models/PoliticaMigratoria/CEM/Estadisticas/Boletin es_Estadisticos/2022/Boletin_2022.pdf
[2] https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/national-media-release/cbp-releases-october-2022- monthly-operational-update
[3] https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/federal-court-strikes-down-title-42-major-victory- asylum-seekers

Please get in touch if you would like to arrange a visit, schedule an interview with one of our staff or patients, visit the shelters in Reynosa, or procure images from the clinics.

For further information please contact:
[email protected]

Download PDF

Newsletter

September 2022 Newsletter – Matamoros Clinic Closure

On October 12, 2019, GRM responded to what at the time we thought was an acute crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border that resulted in hundreds of families being stranded with no food, shelter, or medical care.

The Matamoros project was initially conceived as a short-term crisis response. The situation, as we soon learned, was really an acute manifestation of chronic problems that have existed for decades. On top of that, the pandemic, natural disasters, and worsening socio-political conditions in home countries meant that the need for aid remained at a dire level.

A lot of GRM’s work is determining the where, when, and how of resource allocation. While our footprint is large thanks to our volunteer and donor community, we are still a small organization, committed to remaining agile in order to maintain a response that is targeted and impactful. We are constantly reviewing that impact, and this month we have shifted gears on our longest running project – Matamoros, Mexico.

In Matamoros, we evolved from treating people out of our backpacks on the sidewalk to operating simultaneous freestanding clinics and mobile medical teams. What started with just 7 volunteers over a long weekend grew to more than 24 permanent team members at its height and saw over 150 different volunteers over the history of the project.

Over the last several months, we have seen a steady and significant decline in the number of patients seeking medical care at our clinic. This has reflected a corresponding decline in the migrant and asylum-seeking population of the city. The reality is that Matamoros is no longer the epicenter of the asylum crisis in the region. That distinction now belongs to Reynosa, where GRM operates multiple clinics, 5 days per week, serving thousands of displaced people seeking entrance to the U.S. who live in informal camps, overcrowded shelters, or on the street.

In light of this reality, we have decided that it is time for our project in Matamoros to come to an end, and are focusing our resources and efforts in our Reynosa and Tapachula clinics, where they can be best utilized to meet the needs of the vulnerable migrant and asylum-seeking population.

We are grateful to everyone who has been a part of our Matamoros family and contributed to changing the lives of more than 12,000 patients over the last three years.

Sincerely,

The GRM Team


Above: Dr. Dairon Elisondo Rojas, a Critical Care Physician originally from Cuba, who worked as a
physician in our Matamoros clinic while awaiting his own asylum trial.


Above 1: Several of GRM’s wonderful local team during the early days of clinic work in the camp.

Above 2: Sam Bishop was GRM’s first Project Manager for the Matamoros Clinic from 2019 to 2021. In 2021, he was promoted to GRM’s Mexico Country Director, and is responsible for all of GRM’s operations in Mexico, to include both clinics in Reynosa and Tapachula.

Above: GRM’s Mobile Clinic, where staff and volunteers treated patients when the asylum-seekers’ encampment still existed.

Above 1: Mark McDonald, GRM’s Matamoros Project Manager from 2021 to 2022. In 2022, Mark was promoted to GRM’s Director of Strategic and Operational Integration.

Above 2: In 2021, GRM moved its Matamoros operations full time into what was originally the Resource Center Matamoros. Several of our partners at MGH are seen here on the clinic’s balcony.




Above: Group pictures with more of GRM’s incredible staff, volunteers, partners and local team members who worked tirelessly in Matamoros over the years.

Newsletter

November 2022 Newsletter – Volunteer Voices 1

We often ask our volunteers to tell us about their experiences volunteering for GRM. We find their feedback to be enlightening, informative, and useful for improvement. We also find that their stories of patient interaction are great examples of why the GRM mission is so important. The following is adapted from such feedback by Katie G., a GRM volunteer nurse who recently finished a rotation to our clinic in Reynosa, Mexico.

“GRM is truly an organization that stands by the principles of the humanitarian imperative, they bring impartial assistance to those most in need and deserving. They are an organization I am proud to say I work with.” – Katie G., GRM Volunteer Nurse

 

Last Friday, GRM encountered a Haitian refugee living in the Senda de Vida Shelter, who was 28 weeks pregnant and presenting with a medical condition called pre-term premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM), meaning her water broke too early. This condition is dangerous for the mother due to high risk of infection and high probability of emergency cesarean section. It is also dangerous for the premature baby, whose lungs are not fully developed and will need NICU care immediately after delivery.

Left: Nurse Katie, a GRM volunteer and the author of this story, setting up for clinic hours in Reynosa.

GRM was notified by Doctors Without Borders that this woman had been turned away from the local emergency department in Reynosa because they did not have NICU capacity. GRM staff picked the patient and her family up from their shelter and brought them to the clinic at Casa de Lulu. Dr. William, a local GRM staff doctor, contacted the maternity hospital in Reynosa but was told that all of the NICU beds were in use, and they could not accept any more patients. At this point, the GRM team agreed that the patient would not be able to receive the immediate care she needed in Mexico and arranged for her to be received at a U.S. hospital in Texas via our medical referral cost coverage program (a program that is facilitated through GRM’s generous donor community for urgent and complex medical cases like this).

GRM contacted Lawyers for Good Government in order to initiate medical asylum paperwork and expedite the patient’s crossing. In the meantime, Dr. William and Nurse Katie gave her an injection of steroids to help the baby’s lungs develop and an injection of antibiotics to prevent infection. As soon as the legal paperwork was completed, GRM started assisting the patient and her family cross the border. At this point, the patient was in pain, feeling contractions and leaking a significant amount of amniotic fluid. Katie used a GRM wheelchair to push the patient across the border bridge while another volunteer nurse, Lia, accompanied her family close behind. Once at the bridge, they were met by CBP agents and brought to the Immigration Center. It took about an hour to get through the Immigration Center before the patient was released and an ambulance was called. Katie accompanied the patient in the ambulance to the Rio Grande Hospital while Lia and the family followed behind in an Uber.

Above right: Nurse Katie and patient in U.S. Ambulance after crossing.

Below: Patient receiving treatment in McAllen, TX in Labor & Delivery Unit.

At the hospital, the patient was immediately transferred through the ER and into the Labor and Delivery Unit. The L&D staff were pleased to hear the patient had already received antibiotics and a steroid injection at the GRM Clinic, noting GRM’s quick thinking and fast action potentially helped the patient avoid an emergency premature c-section, and certainly helped prevent infection or worse complications.

Once the patient was safely settled in the L&D unit, GRM staff focused on the patient’s family. Unfortunately, the hospital did not allow the family to stay in the hospital room with the patient. However, our Reynosa Project Manager contacted our friends, the Angry Tias and Abuelas, another local nonprofit, who provided a three-day stay in a nearby hotel for the family.

The patient and her family were grateful for the medical services provided by GRM and told our staff this was the first time in months that they felt safe and optimistic about the future.

While it is terrible to think of what the outcome could have been without the intervention of the GRM team, Lawyers for Good Government, Doctors Without Borders, the Angry Tias & Abuelas, and everyone else involved in this patient’s care, this situation illustrates exactly how important our work is.

Please contribute today…

GRM cannot continue to meet the needs of patients like the woman in this story without your financial support. in order to maintain our mission of delivering emergency medical care and humanitarian relief to displaced populations affected by conflict and crisis around the globe, we MUST raise $400,000 before the end of 2022

Please consider making a donation TODAY in order to help us fill this gap. If not today, then please keep us in mind during the upcoming Giving Season this year.

The men, women, and children we serve in our clinics every day need us, and they need YOU. We owe it to them to ask you directly, and urgently, for your assistance. We’re deeply grateful for your consideration.

With gratitude,

The GRM Team

Newsletter

November 2022 Newsletter – Volunteer Voices 2

Similarly to last week, today we are bringing you another individual’s story of their experiences volunteering with GRM. We hope you find his story as poignant and valuable as we do!

“While here in Reynosa, I quit my job to fully commit to this. GRM has been an amazing stepping stone for me and I plan to continue volunteering with them in the future. They allowed me to do short-term volunteer trips while I was still working and helped me network with other humanitarian workers and organizations. Additionally, GRM was a great reintroduction to serving abroad while queer. All of the local staff and volunteers welcomed me with loving and outstretched arms.” – Kirby, GRM Volunteer Nurse

 

Above: Kirby, a GRM volunteer nurse and the author of this story.

My name is Kirby. I have a Master’s Degree in Nursing from Johns Hopkins, and I am a GRM Reynosa volunteer. When volunteering with GRM I see my role as support staff to the local team. They know the system, the people, the common ailments of their patients, etc. I’m here to help them and their goals, so whatever tasks will make their jobs and lives easier, is what I want to do.

Most of of the local staff have multiple jobs in addition to working with GRM, and if I can limit their burn out, then I’ve done my job. I try to come in full of energy, so I see my role as one of sustainability that is much needed on this project because of the difficult conditions both patients and staff face each day.

Louvens (pictured right with Kirby), is on GRM’s Team Reynosa and serves as a translator. Louvens was born in Haiti and traveled to the Dominican Republic when he was 5 years old. At 27, he saved up enough money to move to Brazil, where he lived for seven years working to save up more money and begin his travel to America. At the age of 34, he started his three-year journey to Reynosa.

He traveled alone, using a paper map for his trip. He often met other migrants, although he did the majority of the trip with eight other men who he met along the way.

He bused from Brazil to Colombia, then spent five days crossing the jungle to Panama. They ran out of food on the third day, and struggled to finish the trip. Louvens called it “la routa de la muerte” (the route of death), and said he saw numerous bodies along the trail that seem to have starved to death, were too injured to continue, or were stabbed or violated along the way.

Once out of the jungle and in Panama, he continued the rest of the way by bus through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras to Guatemala to Mexico. At each border, they met with immigration to get permission to pass through the country.

Once in Reynosa, he lived on the streets for nearly a month before finally gaining entry to one of the local shelters. He now has access to one free meal a day in exchange for contributing to the shelter. Cooking, cleaning, child care, orientation, and construction are a few of the ways people can contribute.

As a former translator in Brazil, Louvens was excited to put his experience to use at the GRM clinic. Louvens and I worked great together triaging patients prior to them seeing the doctors for consultation. He is one of the many team members I am excited to work with again.

#TEAMREYNOSA

Please contribute today…

GRM cannot continue to meet the needs of patients like the woman in this story without your financial support. in order to maintain our mission of delivering emergency medical care and humanitarian relief to displaced populations affected by conflict and crisis around the globe, we MUST raise $400,000 before the end of 2022

Please consider making a donation TODAY in order to help us fill this gap. If not today, then please keep us in mind during the upcoming Giving Season this year.

The men, women, and children we serve in our clinics every day need us, and they need YOU. We owe it to them to ask you directly, and urgently, for your assistance. We’re deeply grateful for your consideration.

With gratitude,

The GRM Team

DONATE NOW

Become a vital part of the solution.
Click here.

Help GRM provide support and life-saving medical aid to Ukraine refugees

As the war in Ukraine rages on, we are doing our best to provide emergency medical care to refugees in the country and near its borders. Your generous donation will help pay for much-needed medical supplies and the addition of personnel to support the ever-growing needs of this desperate population.

Help us be there for those in need

Donate Today!