International Medical Corps has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1999, providing health care, nutrition, food security, gender-based violence prevention and treatment, and water and sanitation services. In a 12 month period alone (Oct 2012 – September 2013), a total of 1,422 cases of sexual violence were reported at health facilities in eastern DRC supported by International Medical Corps and received appropriate health care and treatment.
Our holistic approach works to support the health and well-being of survivors and their families and, through community outreach and education, aims to change attitudes and behaviors to prevent violence in the future. International Medical Corps provides medical care, psychosocial support, legal services and livelihood development – so survivors can overcome the devastating effect of violence and rebuild their lives. We train doctors, nurses and frontline healthcare workers and through our collaboration with Panzi Hospital, educate doctors in remote areas so they can repair fistulas, helping the community better meet the needs of survivors. And, using popular music, local theater, youth events, radio soap operas, sports and sporting events, public service announcements and other community-based outreach, International Medical Corps works with young men and women to change attitudes and behaviors – helping to build a safer, healthier community for women and girls.
In this instance, International Medical Corps’ behavior modification partner in Goma was able to influence a man that was patronizing an establishment that offered young girls for prostitution. Behavior modification lessons to the community empower women by changing the attitudes of their abusers, because very often, many abusive practices are seen as the norm in DRC and can be carried out without the abuser being stigmatized or punished.
“I am a sand digger and a member of the group Friends of Sand Diggers in Green Lake, Goma. I used my income to pay for prostitutes, a norm among other group members. In my community, there are many drinking places with rooms available to engage in sexual activity with young girls. There is no stigma attached to prostitution and the practice is common and accepted.”
“My opinion on prostitution changed in October 2012. I went to one of the drinking places with a girl under the age of 18. A couple of days later, I went to the same drinking place and I was approached by a community mobilizer who was conducting outreach for the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. He discussed with me the consequences of having sexual relations with underage girls. When I learned that I could be arrested and imprisoned for 5-20 years, I became fearful and remorseful. I thought to myself, “I am still young and I cannot ruin my future by continuing this practice.” I am now working to deter fellow group members and friends from engaging in sexual activity with prostitutes.”
“I am grateful for the information and advice that I received from the members of the SGBV Community Coalition, because without it I may have ended up in jail.”
- 26-year-old man from Mugunga, Goma
International Medical Corps – Typhoon Haiyan Emergency Response Update:
One of the most powerful typhoons on record, Super Typhoon Haiyan has left widespread devastation, affecting an estimated 16 million men, women and children, including displacing some 4.4 million people. International Medical Corps was on the ground within 24 hours of Typhoon Haiyan making landfall, providing emergency medical services to some of the most remote communities, many of which had yet to receive relief or health care. Rapid needs assessments revealed that Typhoon Haiyan severely damaged infrastructure, including homes, buildings and power lines; disrupted water supplies; and destroyed livelihoods, especially fishing and agriculture. There was substantial structural damage in rural health centers and village health offices and the storm destroyed stockpiles, creating a severe shortage of supplies and medicines critical to delivering health care.
Rapid Deployment of Mobile Medical Units: To meet urgent medical needs, International Medical Corps deployed rotating teams of international and local medical professionals to the Philippines. International Medical Corps’ first responders rapidly mobilized supplies and began spreading out to heavily affected areas not yet reached by other organizations. In six weeks of operation (from November 15 – December 19), mobile medical teams reached more than 80 villages (barangays) in 21 municipalities throughout Leyte, Eastern Samar, Cebu, and Capiz provinces – providing 14,625 health consultations.
Key services included health care and treatment for injuries, infections and chronic conditions; mental health and psychosocial support for survivors; monitoring diseases of epidemic potential; and nutrition screening for children under the age of 5. A total of 2,171 children were screened by the Mobile Medical Teams, with a total of 120 acute malnutrition cases treated in Leyte and Capiz Provinces. Out of the total consultations, 65% of new consultations (9,349) were women and girls, often some of the most vulnerable in the aftermath of a disaster. Further, in coordination with the government of the Philippines, International Medical Corps’ teams also delivered and distributed $1.8M worth of medicine and medical supplies to health care facilities.
Increasing Capacity Through Medical Training: True to its mission, International Medical Corps also provided training to build the capacity of local health care providers while delivering emergency services. International Medical Corps collaborated with the Provincial Health Office and UN agencies to conduct trainings for locally-based medical professionals to ensure that a broad range of health indicators were monitored and holistic health care was addressed in the aftermath of the typhoon. To date, International Medical Corps trained 11 people on SPEED (Surveillance in Post Emergency and Extreme Disasters) and with UNICEF trained participants on malnutrition screening of children under the age of 5. In collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Medical Corps trained 21 participants from 5 different organizations on critical reproductive health care services designed to save lives and protect women, infants, and young girls during humanitarian emergencies (also known as the Minimum Initial Services Package or MISP). Furthermore, International Medical Corps’ Mental Health Specialist trained national doctors and nurses in Roxas on Psychological First Aid, which gives the skills necessary to support people immediately following extremely stressful events in ways that respect their dignity, culture and abilities.
Mobile Medical Team – The response in their words: Ivy Caballes, RN-- Mobile Medical Unit Team Leader, Leyte: “When we first arrived in Tacloban, I had mixed emotions as to how I would take it, because it would be my first time seeing the devastation. Because I was a part of the first Mobile Medical Unit, I was made team leader while we were still working in the evacuation center in Cebu. Working with the patients in the evacuation center in Cebu, we noticed that the patients had bad cuts and wounds. Dozens were coming to the evacuation center simply to list missing relatives and missing children. They told us their stories of the devastation. One woman told me, “We were chased by four big ships that were pushed onto land from the ocean.”
“Coming into Tacloban for the first time, I wondered what the devastation is going to be like. We arrived and saw that the airport was gone, and continued hearing stories about family members who had been lost on the coasts and loved ones who had been washed out to sea. It was really depressing and gloomy… on the road going to Tanauan, the devastation just broke your heart.”
“We were all excited to be part of the Mobile Medical Unit, because help does not often make it this far into Leyte. Working with International Medical Corps is a completely different experience. In the Philippines, when you do medical visits you often visit the place, do your assessments, provide your treatment, and then leave. With International Medical Corps, our Medical Director emphasized that we want to build up the existing healthcare providers -- the midwives and nurses -- and offer support where they cannot fill needs.”
“In some of these communities, many residents haven’t seen a doctor in years. After the typhoon, health care is finally beginning to reach the far-flung areas. It was a huge eye-opener for those of us Filipinos who didn’t know the extent of our country’s health concerns. During the crisis, the team was willing to sacrifice, everyone was willing to lend a helping hand. I really applaud the team for their patience and perseverance. It was a great feeling to be a volunteer for your own country.”
Today, International Medical Corps, in coordination with local authorities, is focused on recovery efforts including: building local capacity for mental health services, improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities in schools, and enacting an integrated treatment of malnutrition program. These activities will allow the residents of these storm-ravaged areas to become their own First Responders by making their communities more resilient in the face of any future disasters.
International Medical Corps has been delivering humanitarian assistance in southern Sudan since 1994 and supporting communities across South Sudan since its independence in 2011. On December 15, 2013, heavy fighting broke out in the capital Juba and quickly spread, displacing 740,000 people across the country, and forcing tens of thousands more to seek refuge in neighboring countries. This escalating violence in South Sudan has impacted the delivery of International Medical Corps’ lifesaving services in conflict areas, along with those of many other humanitarian organizations.
International Medical Corps shares the concerns of many in the humanitarian community that the ongoing and escalating conflict will have a devastating impact on civilians in South Sudan and hopes for a swift and permanent cessation of violence. Unfortunately, despite a cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed by the Government of South Sudan and opposition leaders on January 23, the cease-fire was broken on February 18. Fighting has resumed in Malakal forcing numbers seeking refuge at the UN base to around 30,000 Internally Displaced People (IDP). International Medical Corps is providing health and nutritional services to these vulnerable communities, and on February 18 alone, International Medical Corps medical personnel treated more than 100 people hurt in the conflict.
Julia Albert-Recht, Program Manager for International Medical Corps in Malakal says, “The renewed fighting is having a devastating knock-on effect for civilians in Malakal. Even inside the UN camp we have seen tensions begin to rise and we have seen fights break out between groups within the IDP camps.” Albert-Recht continued, “Yesterday, at our clinic, we helped a woman through a very difficult birth and delivered a beautiful healthy baby. If that had been this morning, their lives would be in real danger because we aren’t able to get out to help them. There are thousands of innocent families in Malakal who need health and nutrition assistance which they won’t get because of this latest round of fighting.”
Since heavy fighting began in December, it is estimated that the conflict has claimed over 10,000 lives. Seven of the country’s 10 states are affected by the violence, including Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes, Unity, Upper Nile, and Warrap. The United Nations refugee agency recently warned of severe strains on refugee camp populations in Uganda, while Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya also struggle to serve the influx of people. The humanitarian situation within South Sudan remains dire, with Internally Displaced People in camps urgently needing primary and emergency health care, water, hygiene, and sanitation and nutrition services, and shelter supplies. Tens of thousands more who are seeking refuge in very rural areas continue to lack access to assistance.
International Medical Corps is currently working in Juba, Maban, Awerial and Malakal, where tens of thousands of people are seeking refuge:
International Medical Corps is collaborating with UNICEF to also begin providing comprehensive mental health and psychosocial support to survivors of trauma and gender-based violence and clinical case management in Malakal, Awerial, and Bor. International Medical Corps will continue to closely monitor the security and humanitarian situation across the country and in neighboring countries, and will seek to fill gaps in areas where access was previously limited or impossible.