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Knowledge Portal > News > Posts > UW Ob-Gyn joins the effort to help Afghan refugees at Ft. McCoy
September 23
UW Ob-Gyn joins the effort to help Afghan refugees at Ft. McCoy

Refugees fleeing persecution in their home country arrive in the United States with little more than the clothes on their backs. Wisconsin’s Ft. McCoy is temporarily home to approximately 13,000 Afghan refugees. 

UW Ob-Gyn residents organized a donation drive earlier this month, and collected over 300 diapers, 200 pads, and several dozen outfits for infants and children, as well as backpacks, toiletries, and other goods. Madeline Wetterhahn, MD, PGY-3 filled her car to the brim and personally drove the donations to Ft. McCoy. Thanks, Dr. Wetterhahn!!

Our finance Committee has endorsed a donation on behalf of the department, and is currently researching the best way we can meet the greatest need. There are also numerous opportunities for individuals to help. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families has suggested resources for individuals looking to help. UW Health also shared this message about institutional efforts to support Afghan refugees:

Caring for Afghan Families Temporarily Housed at Fort McCoy



We received numerous inquiries from our providers and staff about how to best support Afghan families currently housed at Fort McCoy. We hope that the following information will assist you in better understanding the current situation, the actions taken by UW Health and the ways in which you can personally assist.

Background and current situation:

  • There are approximately 12,500 Afghan evacuees currently being housed at Fort McCoy.
  • This is currently still a military operation. Additional information:  Operation Allies Welcome.
  • The situation is constantly evolving, and UW Health leadership is continuing to monitor and is working closely with the Military, Federal, State and Local agencies

The immigration status of the Afghan families housed at Fort McCoy is complex with a range of statuses, most families are currently under a special humanitarian parole program. “Parole is not a legal immigration status and does not provide a path to legal immigration status. The beneficiary must take additional steps to ensure they remain legally present in the United States.” Here is an excellent article by the Migration Policy Institute.

What has UW Health done to assist:

UW Health has a long history of partnering with community organizations to support immigrants and refugees. Immediately as the crisis in Afghanistan unfolded, we contacted our community partners to better understand the unfolding situation and have stayed closely connected with them. To date, we have taken the following specific actions:

  • $10,000 unrestricted donation to Jewish Social Services (JSS), our local refugee resettlement agency. JSS has not yet received information on whether and when any Afghan families currently housed at Fort McCoy will be resettled in the Madison area.
  • $2,500 donation to Open Doors for refugees.
  • Made rooms available at no charge at the Best Western Plus InnTowner for temporary housing.
  • Working to recruit a cohort of Pashto and Dari/Farsi speakers we can train as medical interpreters and assist in obtaining their national medical interpreter certification.
  • Planning to work with Jewish Social Services on employment opportunities at UW Health for any families resettled in the Madison area.
  • Organized basic care need packages for our patients and families (see below).

How can you help?

Below, we offer options to support the organizations most-directly involved in meeting the current and future needs of Afghan families currently housed at Fort McCoy. As always, we advise that cash donations or official wish list purchases are best to allow organizations to obtain exactly what is needed.

UW Health Supplies Drive to support our patients and their families: Baby Supplies Donation Drive for Families from Afghanistan.

Refugee resettlement in the Madison area has not been announced. We may get up to 125 refugees in FY22. These organizations will be in the lead if/when refugees arrive:

Providing culturally and linguistically appropriate care for our Afghan patients:

  • The primary languages spoken in Afghanistan are Pashto and Dari/Farsi
    • Please make sure to use UW Health approved in person and remote interpreter services. You can contact interpreter services at (608) 262-9000.

Cultural humility:

  • Be cognizant of and don’t use or share resources that are based on stereotypes.
  • Making assumptions about people’s culture and belief systems is harmful.
  • Stay focused on assessing each a patient and family’s needs through open ended questions.
  • Take the Social Differences within Social Groups web-based training.

 We are certainly not surprised by the numerous inquiries and the outpouring of support from all of you, our UW Health colleagues. Thank you for once again for being remarkable.


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