International Medical Corps

International Medical Corps is a global humanitarian nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering through healthcare training, disaster relief, and long-term development programs.
Sep 6, 2013

Providing Communities Clean Water Solutions Before an Emergency

Dispensing water from a DayOne Waterbag in Haiti
Dispensing water from a DayOne Waterbag in Haiti

The DayOne Response Waterbag has the potential to lessen the aftermath of disasters by providing communities the means to purify drinking water on the family and community level. The Waterbags can be prepositioned in regions vulnerable to disaster, ensuring the solution to the problem is present before the disaster strikes.

DayOne Response and International Medical Corps have continued to dedicate resources to the pilot program. In June, International Medical Corps and DayOne Response developed a concept for an international fund dedicated to supporting innovations in humanitarian assistance. The concept covers not only the pilot program, but evaluation for the pilot – a step that is crucial to determining the most effective way to distribute and teach communities about the Waterbag. The development of the concept included the input of International Medical Corps’ Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene experts ensuring that DayOne and International Medical Corps developed the pilot plan with the highest standards.

In July, International Medical Corps and DayOne Response traveled to California to present DayOne Response’s social business model and the pilot program to another potential donor that focuses on social entrepreneurship.  International Medical Corps and DayOne Response discussed their plans and the Waterbag technology in detail with the donor. Further discussions are now ongoing about how the donor might support the pilot program in the near future.

Additionally, in July, DayOne Response and International Medical Corps narrowed down the ideal region to pilot the Waterbag as East Africa. This came as a result of several conversations between DayOne Response and International Medical Corps’ field and technical teams looking at several factors including flood seasons, insecurity, and existing community practices. To kick start efforts, our next step is to send sample bags to International Medical Corps’ field teams in East Africa, where field and technical teams will determine the size, scale, and other parameters of the pilot program. International Medical Corps and DayOne Response will document the process with photos and videos and will use it in its continued promotion of the effort.

Currently, International Medical Corps and DayOne Response are preparing to highlight the DayOne Waterbag project at the upcoming Clinton Global Initiative meeting in late September to attract new partners to support the project.

“Each year, over 255 million people are affected by natural disasters, and without access to clean water, they face potentially life-threatening waterborne illnesses. We have the solution to disrupt this trend. With a DayOne Waterbag and P&G’s Purifier of Water packets, families and communities are empowered to treat their own water on site, converting even muddy, bacteria-ridden water into clean drinking water. When roads are impassible, a single UH-1Y helicopter can carry about 5000 DayOne Waterbags, providing enough water to support 20,000 individuals. The Waterbag is durable enough that those first-day units will still be functional months later. 

In Haiti, we met Dimitry, who regularly walked 9 miles to water distribution points, only to get a single 1-liter water bottle, which was not enough for his family. He told us the DayOne Waterbag would change everything for him, including providing his family with clean drinking water and hope to recover from the disaster. With the first-responder focus of International Medical Corps and field experts, we have the ability to make this make this a reality for Dimitry and other communities affected by natural disasters. We are working together to save lives and provide clean drinking water on day one.” – Tricia Compas-Markman, Founder & CEO of DayOne Response

International Medical Corps and DayOne Response
International Medical Corps and DayOne Response
DayOne Waterbag, Before and After Treatment
DayOne Waterbag, Before and After Treatment
Dispensing water from a DayOne Waterbag in Haiti
Dispensing water from a DayOne Waterbag in Haiti

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Sep 3, 2013

Building Capacity in Japan, Offering Better Protection for People with Disabilities in a Disaster

Hide Higami welcomes event participants
Hide Higami welcomes event participants

International Medical Corps has partnered with The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan to build the capacity of Japanese community organizations to offer greater protection to people with disabilities in the aftermath of a disaster.  In the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the mortality rate of people with disabilities was more than double than that for the average population. While AAR responded quickly and effectively, in the aftermath of the earthquake, it became clear that there was a critical gap in addressing the needs of people with disabilities (PWDs). As a result, International Medical Corps and AAR Japan are working to build the capacity of local communities and agencies to improve preparations for rescue, relief and recovery efforts that better reflect the needs of the entire population, with a special focus on PWDs.

Some of the factors that led to the disproportionate casualties experienced by the elderly and disabled were: physical inaccessibility of the temporary shelters (e.g. not accessible by wheelchair, difficult to access bathrooms, etc.); difficulty of PWDs in communicating needs; existing social attitudes toward the disabled; lack of access to critical information; and a lack of necessary medication/medical equipment at the shelters.

To ensure these groups do not suffer the same difficulty in a future disaster, International Medical Corps and AAR believe that it is important to establish emergency response standards that are applicable to all people, including the elderly and PWDs. Our agencies agreed that as a first step, persons with disabilities must be actively engaged in the earliest planning stages in non-disaster times. Their unique perspective and experience, based on International Medical Corps’ global approach to disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness, is essential to the reducing PWD vulnerabilities and building capacity toward becoming self-reliant their stated need to be both respected and supported.

As part of our initiative, International Medical Corps and AAR Japan are partnering with Iwaki Jiritsu Seikatsu Center (IJSC), a local non-profit organization supporting PWDs in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, to pilot two inclusive emergency shelter exercises to a wide variety of local community members. There are two important goals for this activity. The first is to help develop assertive behavior among PWDs in Iwaki City so that they can articulate their needs and take ownership in the management of emergency shelters.  The other goal is to raise awareness in the local community about the varied needs of persons with disabilities and the roles and responsibilities they can take on in times of disaster.

The model for the emergency exercise was developed and base-lined by observing another non-profit organization that does similar work in Koshigaya City, Saitama Prefecture. A local non-profit organization supporting PWDs had hosted an annual two-day emergency shelter event, beginning in 2011, that emphasized the active participation of traditionally vulnerable populations including persons with disabilities, children, women, and the elderly. According to Hide Higami, who is the Head of Koshigaya Sleep-Over Emergency Shelter Event Committee and also a person with disabilities, the purpose of this event is to have people experience what it is like to be in an emergency shelter on “Day One” of a big disaster.

On August 17–18, 2013, International Medical Corps Country Representative Yumi Terahata, AAR Japan Fukushima Program Coordinator Atsushi Naoe, and Iwaki Seikatsu Jiritsu Center staff member Yoshi Komatsu participated in Koshigaya’s third annual event.  It was an incredibly educational experience for all three partner organizations, providing a number of ideas to incorporate into our own initiative. International Medical Corps and AAR will leverage this new relationship with the event committee members who facilitated this experience to utilize their advice and expertise, while also exploring ways to collaborate across prefectures in the future.

The first of International Medical Corps supported emergency shelter exercises in Iwaki City will take place later in 2013.  The simulation, based on International Medical Corps’ emergency simulation exercises across the globe, will include an impromptu run-through (i.e., with no preparation and minimal information passed on to the participants regarding the nature of the exercise) which will allow all participants to experience what it would be like to suddenly be thrust into an emergency shelter without any personal provisions. A public school gymnasium will serve as the site of the drill, and International Medical Corps and AAR will invite a wide range of participants including persons with disabilities, women with small children, and the elderly to make this exercise as realistic and inclusive as possible.

The location of this exercise has been chosen because it is not up to universal design standards, like many emergency shelters in Japan (e.g., without ramps for wheelchair accessibility, etc.). Persons with disabilities will be paired with other members of the local community and will work together to note the various issues and obstacles around making a shelter accessible to persons with different needs. Building on the lessons learned during the first drill, participants will work together to improve the shelter plan. We plan on practicing the improved plan in the first quarter of 2014.

program participants set up a mobile toilet
program participants set up a mobile toilet
visually impaired participant examines a toilet
visually impaired participant examines a toilet
Mr. Miyashita teaching useful sign language
Mr. Miyashita teaching useful sign language
bananas denoting the needs or skills of the wearer
bananas denoting the needs or skills of the wearer
Yumi Terahata mixing instant rice
Yumi Terahata mixing instant rice
Aug 21, 2013

Saving Women's Lives Through Emergency Obstetric Care

Trained midwives with Blandine
Trained midwives with Blandine

Blandine Butundi, 18 years old and expecting, was suffering from a life-threatening pregnancy complication. 

“My first three months of pregnancy were the heaviest weight I carried since I was born …. the midwife of our Mundindi Health Clinic advised me to consult a doctor in Walikale [the regional capital]. I felt very heavy, yet I was only three months along.

One day I felt dizzy and collapsed at the house door. I was rushed to Walikale General Hospital on a motorbike, not knowing which world I was in. My heart was beating so fast and I felt very thirsty. I was sweating heavily. In the consultation room the midwife just said: ‘You are a lucky lady, you met the specialist in women’s care.’ It was Dr. Kennedy [head of obstetric surgery].

I was given an injection, and the only thing I remembered was the doctor telling me: ‘Something is wrong Blandine, we have to remove whatever is inside your stomach before serious damages occur.’ The rest of the story I was told by my mother.”

Blandine had suffered a miscarriage, and she needed surgery or would face infection and possible death. Thanks to the intervention of Dr. Kennedy Musavuli, she will soon be able to return home in good health. Dr. Kennedy, who received training in emergency obstetrical care and fistula care from International Medical Corps, was able to diagnose the miscarriage and conduct the necessary surgical procedure that saved Blandine’s life.

“The training we received with the support of International Medical Corps shaped our knowledge and experience much more,” said Dr. Kennedy. “Personally, I am so thankful to International Medical Corps for health support in many ways.”

Blandine is also thankful for the support of the skilled surgeons, and expects to return home from the hospital in the upcoming days.

“I have nothing to give to this doctor,” she notes. ”He is such a blessing to the Walikale people, a person who does things with his heart.  If he was not there… I was already dead, my mother said. Now I am feeling like a normal person and I hope soon I will get back to my house.”

As part of its safe motherhood initiative, International Medical Corps trained surgical staff from the general hospitals at Walikale and Chambucha,located in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in emergency obstetric surgery to address health issues such as Blandine’s. 

In Blandine’s home territory of Walikale, International Medical Corps also recently organized trainings for frontline healthcare workers, such as the midwife in Mundindi who referred Blandine to a doctor, to recognize danger signs during pregnancy, ultimately benefiting over 33,000 women in the area.

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