With more than two decades working in the field with International Medical Corps, Stephen Tomlin, Vice President for Program Policy and Planning, offers rare insight into the humanitarian crisis in East Africa. In addition to establishing International Medical Corps’ program in Somalia in 1991, Stephen helped launch our programs in Rwanda, Bosnia and Honduras.
I’m on my way to East Africa, where the world’s worst humanitarian disaster is affecting some 12 million people. I have a strong personal connection to this region -- twenty years ago, I ran International Medical Corps' response to another famine in Somalia. Even now, I vividly remember the suffering of sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, malnourished and in pain. Today, two years without rain has turned crop fields into dried clay, causing widespread food shortages and famine throughout Somalia. Without any food and no end to the drought in sight, millions are struggling to survive. Many of those fleeing to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia are dying along the way. Two decades since responding to that first crisis, we’ve developed huge networks within Somalia, as well as Kenya, and Ethiopia. Our staff and partners on the ground – physicians, nurses, and health care workers we’ve trained – have mobilized and are providing medical, nutrition and other services. Our work in East Africa has never been more important – to learn more about our emergency response, please take a few minutes to watch this video. Thank you -- your support has allowed us to respond to this massive crisis and save lives. Sincerely, Stephen Tomlin Vice President, Program Policy and Planning International Medical Corps
At the end of July 2010, heavy monsoon rains in parts of Pakistan triggered the most devastating flooding in the country in over 80 years. The floods destroyed houses, schools, hospitals, roads, and bridges in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh provinces, damaging more than 1.7 million homes and displacing more than 15 million people. When the flooding subsided, stagnant water and the lack of access to clean drinking water and health facilities caused outbreaks of waterborne diseases. In addition, the flooding destroyed crops and livelihoods exacerbating already high malnutrition levels throughout Pakistan. The overwhelming destruction, followed by disease, has devastated the lives of millions.
When the floods began, International Medical Corps immediately deployed mobile clinic teams to the most severely affected areas of Pakistan to provide emergency medical services. In September, we implemented a holistic approach, providing services such as comprehensive primary and mental healthcare, health and hygiene education, and psychosocial counseling.
Due to International Medical Corps’ presence and long history of working in Pakistan, the emergency response to the floods was led by our Pakistani national staff. Immediately after the disaster, we had over 900 local health professionals and volunteers working to respond to the crisis. Currently, 750 national staff are facilitating our programs.
PRIMARY HEALTH CARE
International Medical Corps has provided more than 1.4 million patient consultations since the onset of the floods. We have provided emergency care and other health services for anywhere from 50 to 200 patients per day at each of our clinics. The most treated conditions include diarrheal diseases due to contaminated water sources, acute respiratory illnesses and skin infections including scabies. As the rapid spread of communicable diseases has been a serious threat following this disaster, the mobile health teams also operate as a disease ‘early-warning’ system; by getting out into the communities, they can spot the early signs of cholera and other waterborne diseases associated with large amounts of standing water and limited sanitation. In addition, our teams prioritize care for vulnerable groups like women and children who often find it difficult to travel to safe places where they can get help.
Responding to psychological needs after a disaster is an important focus of International Medical Corps.
We have provided more than 80,000 psychosocial support sessions to people, including children under 12, identified with depression, anxiety and significant psychological distress.
WOMEN’S AND CHILDREN’S HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
International Medical Corps is supporting the Gynecological/Obstetric and Pediatric wards of the District
Headquarters Hospital in Sindh. Our teams have conducted more than 2,900 consultations, including performing healthy deliveries and antenatal and postnatal consultations.
In addition, we are committed to combating malnutrition in children. In Sindh and Punjab, where malnutrition reached alarming levels following the floods, International Medical Corps-supported health facilities are screening children for acute malnutrition and providing curative nutrition services.
To ensure the health of local children, International Medical Corps’ teams took part in National Immunization Days (NIDs) organized by the local Ministry of Health in cooperation with the World Health Organization – to successfully vaccinate children in camps for Afghan refugees as well as Pakistani host communities in the surrounding areas. International Medical Corps successfully provided the polio vaccine for approximately 23,600 children under five during each of the 11 NIDs, which resulted in 100% vaccination coverage by the end of 2010.
CLEAN WATER, SANITATION AND HYGIENE
Ensuring that people have clean water is one of the most effective ways to prevent outbreaks of waterborne diseases. International Medical Corps has established a waterborne disease treatment center in the District Headquarters Hospital in Nowshehra, one of the districts hardest-hit by the floods. We also have conducted health and hygiene education classes for more than 1.6 million people. These courses cover the prevention of illnesses caused by stagnant water, such as diarrhea, scabies and acute respiratory illnesses.
A BRIGHTER FUTURE
International Medical Corps is facilitating economic recovery training programs to give flood-affected women the tools to achieve financial independence. Before the flood, many women picked cotton or sold hand-embroidered crafts to generate income. However, the floods destroyed much of the cotton crop, leaving many women unemployed. Since embroidery skills are handed down through generations, International Medical Corps teams implemented an embroidery training program to improve their existing skills, raise income levels and boost confidence.
We are providing women with the raw materials to jumpstart their businesses and are working with local businesses, to facilitate the sale of the embroidered products.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
International Medical Corps continues to work with the people of Pakistan to prepare for the 2011 monsoon season that runs from July until September. We are collaborating with Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority to oversee flood-risk analysis and hazard mapping for the areas affected by the 2010 floods. Following the analysis, we will hold a series of preparedness workshops covering disaster scenarios.
Thank you! Your generous support has made the following possible:
Three months ago, a 9.0-earthquake - the fourth largest globally since 1900 - struck off the coast of Japan, triggering a tsunami that buried coastal villages in a wall of water. An estimated 23,000 people lost their lives and while the waters have long receded, the devastation and loss is still paralyzing. Northeastern Tohoku, once a hub for fishing and farming, is now muddy wasteland covered in 25 million tons of rubble. More than 90,000 evacuees remain homeless, living in some hundreds of crowded shelters without jobs or a promise to return home. International Medical Corps was on the ground just 48 hours after the tsunami struck. From the moment we first arrived in Japan, International Medical Corps has been working to support the Japanese government, local non-profit organizations, and people to recover and rebuild from what is considered the worst natural disaster in Japan’s history. In its assessments of earthquake-affected areas, International Medical Corps found mental health to be a profound and much-needed gap in the humanitarian effort. A global leader in emergency mental health response, International Medical Corps is working to build the capacity of local organizations and first-responders to identify and fulfill the mental health needs of survivors. As part of these efforts, we have partnered with Tokyo English Life Line (TELL), a telephone counseling service, and are training their counselors in psychological first aid and other techniques that are crucial in supporting disaster survivors. Because of these trainings, 80 TELL staff are now well-versed in psychological first aid, in addition to 93 other responders and frontline workers from other institutions in Japan. Together with TELL, International Medical Corps also held eight workshops for 301 parents and teachers on how to create a supportive environment for children - as well as nine workshops for 150 staff from different companies on coping skills for management and employees. International Medical Corps also distributed more than 400 handouts on positive coping strategies to people in the affected areas and organized a two-day mental health and psychosocial conference that drew 100 students, teachers, and professionals from across the country. In addition to building Japan’s mental health response capabilities, International Medical Corps also provided the following support in partnership with local Japanese organizations, thanks to your help:
We are committed to helping communities heal and rebuild after this tragedy. From our team in Japan and the families we’ve been able to help, thank you so much for your generous support.