Beth O’Connell became a Frist Global Health Leader in 2010, completing an internship in rural Rwanda for her Bachelor of Public Health. She received the award again in 2013 for an internship in rural Guatemala for her MPH. Today, Beth has earned a DrPH and works as an Assistant Professor in Public and Community Health at Liberty University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate public health courses, while continuing to serve and conduct research to improve health in low-resource communities both domestically and globally.
In March, President Trump issued a budget that recommended a 32 percent cut to foreign assistance. Faith-based organizations across the nation fought back and notable leaders in the nonprofit world—including those from Hope Through Healing Hands, the organization I work for—wrote and signed letters to Congress. They argued against cuts to a program that provides health care, food, emergency relief, clean water and education to the most vulnerable populations on the planet.
Following years of involvement in global humanitarian efforts, I was privileged recently to travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with some of our Congressmen to discuss the importance of preserving this line item in our U.S. budget. What fuels my passion for this work are stories like the one I share here and Christ’s compassion flowing through me for those in direst need.
In Lugala, a village that is 10km from the Dodoma Region in Tanzania, it is common for a man to disappear in thin air when the partner gets pregnant only to reappear when the baby is born. This was shared by several women who said men do not support their partners when they get pregnant. This kind of entrenched financial and social neglect of pregnant mothers has left several women struggling with pregnancies alone without much support, even in times of emergencies.
It’s not about a gleaming waiting room, with tiled floors, aircon, mounted televisions, beautiful furniture, portraits, magazines, coffee mixers and chilled water dispensers. It’s not about custom beds, cabinets and glass panelled waiting rooms with expensive lighting.
Children bear the worst impact of the crisis in northeast Nigeria. This year, an estimated 450,000 children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition, making them nine times more likely to die from common illnesses such as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea. The health system, damaged by fighting, is one of the biggest casualties in the emergency. Families displaced by violence struggle to get their children the help they need to survive.
I have been a midwife for the last 34 years. I work in a hard-to-reach area called Kigezi region, found in South Western Uganda, more than 500 km from Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Kigezi is very hilly. Some areas are completely inaccessible by car, and we use bicycles or motorbikes, called boda bodas. Others, not even a motorbike or bicycle can reach. And in other places, we must use boats or canoes.

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