As the humanitarian community declares famine in parts of southern Somalia, increasing numbers of Somalis affected by the drought in East Africa are fleeing across the country’s borders in search of food, clean water and shelter. Having delivered health care services since 1992 in the region, International Medical Corps teams on the ground in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya are working rapidly to provide humanitarian relief. Defined by an acute malnutrition rate of greater than 30 percent of the population, famine calls for critically urgent protection of human lives and vulnerable groups. In some areas in southern Somalia nearly half the population is malnourished and more than one in four people are severely malnourished - twice the threshold for a humanitarian emergency and the highest malnutrition rate in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) is reporting that 11 million across the region are affected and more than 1,700 are fleeing per day over the Somali border en route to overcrowded refugee camps in neighboring countries including Ethiopia and Kenya – many are dying along the way. "We are extremely concerned that more than 33 percent of children arriving at some camps are acutely malnourished and need immediate intervention. This in addition to the many children who are not able to survive the difficult journey to the camps,” said Chris Skopec, Director of International Operations for International Medical Corps. “Our teams are already working to establish nutrition programs and meet health needs, but this crisis will require a large and long-term response.” Near Dolo Ado in the Somali Region of Ethiopia, International Medical Corps is working with the Ethiopian Government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs to provide immediate relief for drought-affected Somalis seeking asylum and basic resources in refugee camps including Boqolmayo, Melkadida, Kobe and Halewen. Having worked in the local camps since 2009, International Medical Corps is well placed to immediately mobilize its local resources and community network to effectively deliver nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, mental health and reproductive health services to the most vulnerable. As more than 45 percent of new arrivals at the camps are reported to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition, International Medical Corps is implementing supplementary feeding points throughout the camps as well as targeted nutrition services for infants and young children. As overcrowded camp conditions have “increased the risk of the spread of infectious diseases like polio, cholera and measles” according to the World Health Organization, International Medical Corps is also working with local health authorities to safeguard sanitation and hygiene conditions. The organization will construct additional latrines and bathing areas and disseminate hygiene education amongst new arrivals to thwart the spread of infectious disease. In addition, International Medical Corps will continue to provide gender-based violence as well as mental health and reproductive health services including the provision of healthcare for pregnant women. International Medical Corps’ national team in Ethiopia will continue to work with the Ministry of Health to strengthen local capacity, fill gaps and meet humanitarian needs throughout Ethiopia. In Kenya, where the government has declared the drought a national disaster, International Medical Corps is already expanding the organization’s existing nutrition services in three areas hard-hit by the drought: Samburu, Tana River and Isiolo. As the number of Somalis in need of emergency humanitarian assistance has increased by 50 percent since April, International Medical Corps is preparing to address nutrition and WASH needs in Central Somalia and is already addressing nutrition needs in Somaliland.
The brutal conflict in Libya between rebels and government forces has affected countless families and the situation continues to deteriorate. More than 1,000,000 people have already fled the violence, crossing the borders primarily into neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, and the UN Human Rights Council estimates that as many as 15,000 people have died.
Deploying immediately after fighting broke out in February, our emergency response teams have been caring for the displaced and wounded in the midst of a war zone. International Medical Corps is one of a handful of organizations operating both inside the country and throughout displacement camps along the Tunisian border. We’ve delivered shipments of medicines and food supplies, including more than 20,000 kilos in food aid.
Our teams work in some of the most extreme conditions, caring for patients through severe supply shortages, power outages, and rocket fire. Our doctors and nurses are treating severely wounded individuals in the heavily attacked western city of Misurata and helping to evacuate them by boat. Our team has set up a field hospital outside of the city as well, in order to better care for the large number of evacuees. We are also delivering medical supplies, including trauma and surgical kits, to local hospitals and deploying mobile medical teams to the hardest-hit areas.
After receiving reports from inside the country alleging that Qaddafi’s forces are raping women and girls, International Medical Corps launched training services for local psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses to provide medical and psychosocial support services for rape survivors.
Yet even as this crisis continues, International Medical Corps is working toward long-term recovery. We’re providing psychological first aid training to teachers working with children in Benghazi, to help them overcome the devastating effects of conflict. We have also launched training programs for local healthcare workers, including emergency medic training for senior medical students in Libya. By the end of the 4-week course, trainees will be deployed to the front lines of the conflict, to staff ambulances, aid stations, and hospitals.
In addition to providing emergency medical care, we are working with local partners to develop a new rehabilitation center in Benghazi. The facility will offer long-term physical therapy for those who have survived amputations and other massive orthopedic trauma, spinal cord injuries, and head trauma.
International Medical Corps is committed to helping Libyans endure this conflict and to laying the groundwork for a more stable, secure future. On behalf of International Medical Corps and all of the families we’ve helped, thank you for your support.
As you know, while it’s impossible to prevent natural disasters, careful planning and preparation can greatly reduce their impact. It’s the same reason that we practice fire drills in school: when there is an emergency, we know we’re ready.
With hurricane season approaching, we’ve been partnering with the government, local doctors and nurses, and communities to ensure that they too will be ready.
Here are just a few ways in which we’re improving emergency response:
Our commitment to Haiti is long-term; we plan to help build a sustainable health system that can withstand myriad emergencies. Your generosity has made our work possible – thank you.
All the best,
International Medical Corps