Each day adults and children alike gather outside an old school gymnasium in El Paso, Texas in hopes of receiving medical treatment. They are migrants suffering from a variety of different illness, each of them hoping for just a few minutes with volunteers like Dr. Bert Johansson. Johansson is the primary doctor at one of the small pop-up clinics near the U.S.-Mexico border. He is armed with only a few folding tables, a couple of chairs, and a slim assortment of medical supplies. It’s not much but it’s likely the best treatment migrant parents will be able to find for their children, according to NPR.
For migrants who have just recently been released from U.S. custody, it’s much easier to get sick than it is to get treatment for it. As a result, these small pop-up clinics could be the difference between life and death for many families. The gravity behind the situation is evident. Two Guatemalan children died in U.S. custody just in the past month alone. Their deaths sparked a national conversation about the quality of care available at the border processing centers.
More than 2,600 migrant children were separated from their parents after crossing the Southwest border in the U.S., the majority of them this year. For those who have been reunited, the effects of that separation are far from over. https://t.co/1QD0GGpqa9— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 31, 2018
At the El Paso clinic, Dr. Johansson is not working for a profit but out of the goodness of his heart. His long days are accompanied by other volunteers desperate to do what they can to help the many children with nowhere else to turn.
“A lot of us brought our own stethoscopes and otoscopes and over the counter medicines. We had some ways of getting prescription meds,” Johansson said. “We just lined up the kids and saw them.”
Although volunteers gathered up everything they could, they don’t have nearly as many supplies as they need. If they don’t have the medical tools necessary to treat a patient they have no choice but to send them away without assistance. As a result, Dr. Johansson and the rest of the volunteers are seeking donations to help the treatment effort. The funds raised will go towards purchasing the most basic medical supplies such as hydrogen peroxide, bandages, and cough syrup.
Johansson feels a special connection to the migrant people because of his mother who is Honduran and an immigrant herself. He was moved to tears discussing the plight of the many migrant mothers desperate to secure safety for their young children.
“I see my mother when I see these women,” he said while crying. “These are very poor, very vulnerable people, who obviously love their children and they want a better life.”