Over 80% of the world’s population lives within 5 miles of a coast, but far too many communities still live in remote poverty without access to basic health care. Poorly charted waters and rugged terrain, political factors, social disenfranchisement, poor health knowledge, poverty and lack of infrastructure separate these communities from care. The Floating Doctors medical team was formed to answer these challenges to health, deploying medical teams by boat, packhorse or on foot to remote underserved areas, providing ongoing health services and community development projects. To help reach forgotten communities, the sailing ship ‘Southern Wind’ was donated and rebuilt as a medical relief platform. In 2010 Floating Doctors sailed for their first mission in Haiti with medical volunteers and 20,000 pounds of aid supplies to assist in the earthquake relief efforts.
Haiti defined the capabilities and potential for Floating Doctors mission work—long-range response to disasters, self-sufficient operation platform on station, ability to bring health care to remote communities, tailoring care and assistance to the specific health needs of the community, creating partnerships with other groups, and engaging local agencies and communities to assist in making better health possible. After Haiti, Floating Doctors worked in Honduras and in Haiti again in 2011 to assist in the cholera epidemic. Currently Floating Doctors is building a permanent sustainable rural health service over a 7,000 square mile area of jungle-covered mountain and mangrove mazes. Worms and other parasites, machete wounds, malnutrition, dengue fever, STDs, HIV, poor pre-natal health, shark bites, tuberculosis, infected sores, malaria, scabies, lightning strikes and fungal infections are among the many conditions encountered. The absence of sanitation, electricity, clean water and other infrastructure combine with poverty and poor health knowledge to compound every challenge to health care. With challenges affecting health at every level, Floating Doctors utilizes a highly versatile approach to a dynamic health environment. Their programs address individual and community health—not only providing acute and ongoing medical care, but also education, training, community projects, supply donation, and preventive health interventions.