GLEN MILLS, Pennsylvania — The Global South is a term used to describe nations that are less economically developed or lower-income, typically those recovering from colonialism in the Southern Hemisphere. These nations are in the beginning stages of industrialism and are freshly emerging as markets in the global economy. Economic and medical support in the Global South has been an ongoing necessity with rampant poverty, war, medical crises and corruption. Global Links is an organization working to improve healthcare systems in low-income countries, with a particular focus on Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Global South
The Global South consists of the regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. These nations have dealt with the repercussions of raw material extraction, exploitation, poverty and conflict in post-colonial times. There are several coalitions and organizations leading the charge and showing tremendous support in the Global South. Progress would therefore be impossible without both internal and external support. Internal support is most prominently characterized by the South-South Cooperation, a coalition of nations of the Global South with the mission of sharing tips, tools and successes to build growth in every sector. One of these external organizations is Global Links. The organization’s support is based on strengthening the healthcare systems in the most impoverished areas of the Global South.
Global Links was created in 1989 by three women with the mission to establish critical public health infrastructure and strengthen healthcare in impoverished nations throughout the Global South. This nonprofit organization stresses its focus upon the Caribbean and Latin America, with notable projects in Bolivia, Honduras and Nicaragua. Its focus on these regions, in particular, therefore creates trust with the local community and creates a basis of knowledge on how the public health sector works in each region. Public health development is long-term and Global Links is in it for the long haul.
Since its founding, the organization has donated more than $186 million worth of medical resources. Global Links dives deep into these specific regions to get a rich understanding of the cultural context. It focuses its energy on developing strong relationships with domestic public health administrations and groups. Its dedication is evident through the relationships it has formed with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) as well as domestic organizations in the countries it has supported. The foundation of the organization stems from its dedication to sustainability and volunteer labor.
The Principle of Sustainability
Sustainability is one major principle that Global Links works under and prides itself upon. It is incredibly conscious of its environmental impact, noting how lower-income communities are those most affected by pollution, hazardous waste dumps and resulting health implications.
One major initiative involves directing 300 tons of surplus medical equipment destined for U.S. landfills toward the resource-low communities in the Global South. Thus, since the beginning of Global Links, it has redirected significant amounts of medical equipment to struggling countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. This positively impacts communities in need of healthcare equipment and benefits the earth.
The Borgen Project had an opportunity to speak with Angela Garcia, the executive director of Global Links. Garcia says that Global Links works with 32 hospitals in the mid-Atlantic, training and educating people on how to make a difference. A box of gloves or a packet of sutures seems minute, but to global peers, it makes a world of difference. Global Links received the Champion for Change Award from Practice Greenhealth. The award recognizes its efforts in being both environmentally friendly and providing essential healthcare to global communities. The organization makes sure to check that the equipment is in good condition and ensures its usefulness so there is no unnecessary waste. Garcia noted that this method of resource recovery has been noticeably embraced over the last decade.
Global Links depends on volunteers to ensure the recovered medical goods are up to par. The guiding principles of Global Links are, “Respect for all people, respect for the environment and continuous learning,” which embodies the practices and volunteer efforts of the organization. In 2019 alone, volunteers accumulated more than 14,000 hours in an effort to reduce waste and support the medical operations in the Global South by sorting, packing and preparing surplus medical equipment. Global Links also runs a Medical Service Trip Program to provide medical equipment and materials to volunteer service trips from southwestern Pennsylvania that have a medical basis and show a familiarity with the needs of the community they aim to help.
Suture Donation Program
In addition, sutures are often needed in low-income countries for use in surgeries. They are very expensive, which poses a difficulty for low-income nations. Therefore, Global Links implemented a suture donation program in which it sorts through medical surplus in the United States to locate sutures and send them to hospitals and facilities in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, where they are most needed. Sutures are one of about 400 medical supplies Global Links recovers from medical surplus. Global Links supplied around 3,000 sutures to six hospitals in Honduras in 2018. The suture donation helps lower the cost of surgeries.
The Impact of Global Links
Global Links is an ally to the Global South and responds to medical needs in an environmentally conscious way. For example, its work has provided 288 walkers, 300 crutches, 20 wheelchairs and physical therapy equipment to communities in Bolivia. It has also strengthened 47 medical institutions in Bolivia. The organization has made similar impacts in countries such as Nicaragua and Honduras.
Global Links provides healthcare support to countries in the Global South who need it most. Therefore, the organization’s humanitarian work ensures an improved quality of life for people in developing countries who may otherwise be unable to access and afford the necessary care.
– Lizzie Herestofa