On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan passed through the Visayas Region of the Philippines with wind speeds equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane. Within 24 hours, International Medical Corps’ First Responders delivered emergency medical services and relief in the aftermath of the typhoon which left widespread devastation and claimed more than 6,000 lives.
With support from our donors, we were able rapidly to provide lifesaving care; procure needed medicines, supplies, and materials to make health facilities functional; rebuild school infrastructure to keep children healthy; and train national staff to save and improve lives through integrated approaches to care. These programs have helped typhoon-affected communities recover from this emergency. By helping them build back better now, we can ensure that they are more self-reliant in the future.
When many international organizations left the island nation after the initial emergency ended, International Medical Corps stayed and set up programs to help victims recover and become self-reliant once more. Currently, International Medical Corps is providing services in health and capacity strengthening, nutrition, mental health and water sanitation and hygiene in 17 municipalities Leyte, the province most affected by the typhoon.
In order to help prepare the health system in Leyte Province for future disasters, International Medical Corps has been rehabilitating essential health facilities by training doctors and nurses, and restocking essential medical supplies and equipment. In 2014, International Medical Corps:
Similarly, International Medical Corps identified and treated acute malnutrition and prevented malnutrition by promoting optimal infant and young child feeding. The program targeted children under five as well as pregnant and nursing mothers in 10 municipalities. In 2014, International Medical Corps conducted more than 90,000 screenings of children for acute malnutrition, and trained more than 600 local health professionals on nutrition needs during emergencies.
Furthermore,International Medical Corps promotes water supply and hygiene education in at-risk schools, to remedy the large-scale damage to water and sanitation infrastructure as a result of Typhoon Haiyan. Such damage continues to threaten the health of vulnerable communities and puts children, in particular, at risk for contracting communicable diseases. In 2014, benefitting more than 57,000 individuals, International Medical Corps rehabilitated WASH systems in 144 schools;provided hygiene training at 130 schools;trained close to 1,500 teachers in proper hygiene practices; and, trained more than 300 students and 125 teachers as hygiene champions, to train others.
In addition, International Medical Corps has enhanced the capacity of national staff to offer mental health and psychosocial support services through training and education. The program includes sensitization training to help improve local response systems. In 2014, International Medical Corps:
Thanks to the support of GlobalGiving and other donors, we are able rapidly to provide lifesaving services and train national staff to increase their capacity and provide sustainable results. Today, we are addressing gaps in the healthcare system to help build the resiliency of local communities and improve the communities’ wellbeing. Specifically, we are active in the areas of mental health and psychosocial services, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer, while assessing resiliency capacities for future programming.
With the support of our donors, we have been able to support typhoon-affected communities as they bring normalcy back into their lives and continue the long process of recovery. By building back better, they will move closer to self-reliance.
Our teams are operating four Ebola treatment centers and implementing training programs to equip frontline healthcare workers with the skills needed to stop this outbreak at the source. Through the efforts of Emergency Response Team members like Dr. Pranav Shetty as well as volunteer nurse Kelly Suter, among thousands of other First Responders, International Medical Corps will provide access to treatment for 1.5 million people in West Africa.
To date our Bong County Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Liberia has discharged 78 survivors. Nurse Suter gave a firsthand account of just one survivor, baby Josephine.
“Over a week ago Korto - an Ebola survivor- and her three-month-old daughter, Josephine, came to the unit by ambulance. Josephine had developed vomiting, diarrhea and a fever hours after Korto was discharged from the confirmed unit of the ETU. Josephine tested positive for Ebola and grew weak and dehydrated quickly. Each time an IV had to be restarted, she fought a little less. Eventually, we had to hold her down and shave half of her beautiful head of hair to place a scalp IV. While not a difficult or uncommon task when caring for babies, that moment carried with it a sense of defeat. Korto had to leave the room and the medical staff were visibly grieved by the task required of them. Despite all, Josephine continued to deteriorate- her tiny little whimpers being heard less and less from the low risk side of the fence. After days of expecting Josephine to pass away, her symptoms suddenly began to disappear. Josephine gradually regained her strength and is now completely symptom free. Her blood tests are almost negative, her cheeks have filled back out and she loves to be carried around by staff in full personal protective equipment. Though not official until her blood test is completely negative - she is the youngest survivor of Ebola to date.”
* Baby Josephine did test completely negative at four-months-old and was discharged from our Bong County ETU along with her mother Korto.
With the support of GlobalGiving and other donors International Medical is able to continue operating these critically needed ETUs and has also begun efforts to repair healthcare infrastructure with long-term impact in mind.
Behavior change communication is a major focus of International Medical Corps’ work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Deep rooted community change is still required to prevent, address and overcome gender-based violence and International Medical Corps is making progress towards initiating that change. The following is just one example of our efforts.
“My name is Justin. I have been the principal at the Bitobolo Institute since 2006. Institute of Bitobolo is a religious affiliated school. According to the policies, it is strictly forbidden to accept a girl who is pregnant or has a child. This has been the practice since its inception in 1991. I have witnessed change ever since International Medical Corps established a school club and started sensitizing teachers and students on Gender Based Violence (GBV). During the school year 2013-2014, the project helped the school management to revise the code of conduct for teachers to strengthen prevention and protection of students against sexual violence. As the first line authority of the establishment, I strived to popularize this new code of conduct among teachers to ensure strict compliance.
I was concerned about the issue of teenage mothers and the fact that the school was discriminating against them. For some, the pregnancy was a result of rape or early/forced marriage. This was GBV and we were denying them opportunities just because they were girls. I made the decision to mobilize other colleagues to advocate with the school in Bukavu which is responsible for policy formulation and review to change the policy that was discriminating against teenage mothers. We were lucky that the school in Bukavu had also benefitted from similar activities and had been inaugurated as a gender friendly school. We got verbal approval to start enrolling teenage mothers in the school. We are currently organizing meetings with the student-parent committees to encourage girls to enroll in school. Since then four teenage mothers who had been refused to continue school in 2011 are newly enrolled and are attending classes. The enrollment of girls in the school has increased from 17% of the 150 students and now we have 80 girls (53%) enrolled in the school. I have also seen a reduction in the cases of GBV in the school. During the 2011-2012 school year, we had five cases of sexual assault by teachers and classmates. However, after the establishment of the code of conduct, I have not heard any cases reported.
I am very happy for these improvements and I recommend that International Medical Corps intensifies sensitization and involve more schools in the prevention of GBV for the well-being of our community and in particular for the well-being of the girl child.”
With the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors International Medical Corps is able to institute such initiatives and will be able to continue to implement programs that follow through on Justin, and many others’ desire for change in their community.