For more than 30 days, Aneb Mohamed, a 32-year-old mother of seven, traveled from the Gedo area in Somalia, across the border into Ethiopia, all in hope of finding safety and a better future for herself and her children. Back in Somalia, Aneb had made a living for her family by running a small shop selling general goods. In the midst of the crisis, her house and shop were burned down, and with the failing rains and no food, she and her family began the long trek out of Somalia. By the time they reached the Dolo Ado refugee camps in Ethiopia, one of her children had died and her youngest son was very ill. When Aneb and her family were placed in the newly opened Kobe Refugee camp, she took him to International Medical Corps’ nutrition program, where our staff immediately began giving him nutritional supplements. “After only one week, he is looking healthy again,” said Aneb. “He is smiling and happy. This is all thanks to International Medical Corps! I don’t have to worry about his food anymore.”
Last week, as Tropical Storm Emily threatened to cause widespread flooding and landslides in the Caribbean, our team in Haiti sprung into action to prepare our cholera treatment centers for an increase in cases.
Haiti’s topography is prone to both flooding and landslides – perfect conditions for the spread of water-borne diseases like cholera. Flash floods are possible in low-lying areas, such as Gonaives and Carrefour, while strong winds can destroy tents and unstable structures, such as those found in the camps where people are still living.
As the storm approached, Sean Casey, our Haiti Country Director explained: “We are very concerned that heavy flooding will occur as a result of Emily, which will likely lead to a dramatic increase in the spread of cholera. We are preparing all of our cholera treatment facilities and pre-positioning medicines and supplies so that we can continue to treat our most severe patients and to prepare for a likely increase in cases after the storm.”
In Les Cayes, International Medical Corps relocated 27 severe cholera patients out of our tented cholera treatment center into a safe, permanent structure, where they could continue to receive 24-hour care and be protected from the storm. Our team also pre-positioned an emergency room physician at Port-au-Prince’s University Hospital to prepare for the possibility of an increased patient load. They reinforced tents and other temporary structures, stocked our facilities with medicines and supplies, and ensured that vehicles and generators were fueled and ready.
Thankfully, Emily did not directly impact Haiti; there were strong winds and rains to the south but no damage to our program sites. However, heavy rains will likely drive an increase in cholera cases, and with your support, International Medical Corps is ready to respond and meet an increased caseload. Our staff remains on the ground in Haiti more than 18 months after the earthquake, helping to support and rebuild the country’s fragile healthcare infrastructure and provide ongoing treatment. Thank you.
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