Emergency Response to Ensure Critical Healthcare for Migrant Children
It’s a Crisis Beyond the Border
Children’s Health Fund is an organization dedicated to ensuring ALL vulnerable children receive high-quality healthcare. This includes thousands of children from families recently arrived to our country fleeing violence and other conditions that endanger their lives.
Our border has been a focal point of the staggering migrant crisis, however, it is not the only place where children are in urgent need of care and safety. Across the country, and in locations where CHF programs exist, we’ve seen a tremendous surge of recently-arrived children seeking our help. Our programs in places like New York and Florida are overwhelmed, but nowhere more urgently than in New Orleans.
New Orleans' Program is Inundated
Our New Orleans Children’s Health Project is the only program in the entire state providing comprehensive primary care to migrant children regardless of their ability to pay. But today, Medical Director Dr. Kim Mukerjee and Case Manager Miguel Alonso Solares are struggling to stay above water -- not just because it’s hurricane season and the city has flooded several times in recent weeks, but because every month for the last year, an average of 20 recently-arrived migrant children are seeking care at her small clinic and there is a three-month wait for new patients. This represents hundreds of new children and families desperately seeking critical medical services. But the numbers don’t tell the entire story.
Ranging from newborns to adolescents, these children have complex needs that have been compounded by an arduous journey to reach their destinations, trauma from witnessing or experiencing violence and cruelty, and the lack of life-sustaining necessities such as medicines, food, homes, clothes, diapers, and more.
Your Help is Urgently Needed
Since 2014, our program, implemented in partnership with Tulane University, started seeing an influx of migrant children desperately seeking comprehensive medical services available NOWHERE else in the state. This influx is now a deluge. Today, Louisiana ranks 11th in the country for numbers of migrants entering the state, and compared to states like New York, it has a non-existent safety net for migrant children.
By the time these families reach the New Orleans Children’s Health Project, they are at the end of their rope. With no insurance, recently arrived children’s only hope for basic healthcare is you.
We urgently need your help to ensure hundreds of children in New Orleans are healing and not hurting.
Children We are Helping Right Now
Lacking Medicine and Food
Only four days after her family’s difficult journey from Honduras, Rosa was born in a car outside of a hospital in New Orleans. Two weeks ago, Rosa’s mother confided to Dr. Mukerjee that the family had no food at home and no way to pay their rent. Our emergency fund will help provide life-sustaining items like food and medicine needed by children like baby Rosa and her siblings. They need your help.
Living in Darkness
Born blind, at three-years-old, Nuria cannot form words and her hearing is limited. Surrounded by violence in Honduras, her mother fled to provide Nuria with medical care that could give her a shot at a life in spite of her severe disability. Without insurance to get the services she needs, Nuria will live in a world of darkness. With your help, we can provide ongoing care to keep Nuria, and other children like her, healthy and afford their parents the guidance and support to access services.
Having lived in the U.S. for only a few months, Bella is eager to start middle school. Constantly tired, she was brought to our New Orleans clinic because she is experiencing episodes of extreme breathing difficulty. After a long journey marked by harrowing moments in Mexico and at detention facilities in the U.S., Bella is showing signs of concerning anxiety. With your help, we can provide therapy to Bella and others like her, to prevent their symptoms from worsening, and enable them to thrive and learn once they start school.
Note: Photos are of real patients; names have been changed for their protection.
How We are We Helping Migrant Children Thrive
Addressing Urgent Medical Needs and Wellbeing
Because the needs of migrant children are unique, the New Orleans Children’s Health Project has developed an intake process that identifies complex medical, mental health, and other serious needs that critically affect children’s wellbeing. This involves a thorough screening and medical exam. The team dedicates up to three hours to a single child and their family to collect all the information necessary to respond to the conditions children face and ensure they can thrive. It’s not rare for the clinic to have a backlog of telephone messages from 20 families hoping for an opportunity to schedule an appointment. Both providing care to all the families seeking help and delivering it with this level of quality is impossible as the program struggles to keep up with the demand.
Providing the Essentials Just to Survive
Dr. Mukerjee never imagined that her work as a doctor in this country would demand that she triage essential needs beyond healthcare to guarantee that children under her care would be healthy. This includes medicine, food, baby care items like diapers, clothes and even cribs and beds so that children do not have to sleep on the floor. The clinic’s emergency fund has been depleted and the program is struggling to provide these basic needs.
Identification of Trauma
A heartbreaking number of newly-arrived children seen at the New Orleans clinic are diagnosed with trauma. These children have experienced unimaginable hardships--family separation among them--and face continued uncertainty. Without health insurance, migrant children face unacceptable wait times to see specialized medical providers such as therapists and social workers. Left unaddressed, this trauma threatens to negatively impact these children now and for decades to come, all from circumstances and realities completely beyond their control. The clinic is in critical need of bilingual specialized therapists and social workers to help children process and heal from the trauma they have experienced.
Making House Calls
There are families who walk long distances in the unbreathable humidity and scorching gulf heat because they don’t have cars. Because our program is the only one in the state providing these medical services, other families will travel from far-away towns just to be seen by Dr. Mukerjee. These are the lengths to which many parents will go just so that their children get the medical care and compassion for which the New Orleans program is known. Given these access challenges, the program makes house calls to deliver urgent information, emergency supplies for families facing serious food insecurity, lack of essential baby care items, and medicines. But as more families come seeking help with these challenges, Miguel and Dr. Mukerjee are spread thinner as are the emergency supplies they deliver.
The New Orleans Children’s Health Project has worked hard to build a reputation as a trusted healthcare resource in the migrant community and beyond. Through unflagging dedication, Miguel, the program’s bilingual case manager, has forged relationships with Spanish-speaking organizations and communities. An immigrant from Cuba himself, he understands the complex challenges that families face when they arrive in this country. Most of the patients come as referrals from other patients and organizations due to this grassroots work. It’s becoming nearly impossible for Miguel to continue doing the essential outreach work that will ensure our program is a known and trusted resource in the migrant community offering free and compassionate care.