Background: More than three million people were affected by record-breaking rainfall in the Balkans in May 2014, which caused the worst flooding the region has ever seen, and killed over 50 people. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, nearly one million people were evacuated from homes and forced to stay in collective centers or other temporary shelters, because many homes were rendered permanently uninhabitable by the flooding. Tens of thousands of people in Croatia were also affected by the devastating floods when houses and farms were completely destroyed. In Bosnia, at least 4,000 landslides hampered relief efforts, with some landslides remaining active and dangerous for weeks after the rains stopped. Floods and landslides also shifted landmines remaining from the decades-old conflict. In total, the flooding resulted in $2.7 billion in damage throughout Bosnia.
In July and early August 2014, additional heavy rains caused further flooding and landslides in Bosnia, and caused new alerts for the already flood-damaged areas in Croatia near the Sava River.
Surveying the Damage: To respond to this unprecedented level of flooding in the region, International Medical Corps deployed an Emergency Response Team (ERT) to Bosnia on May 22, 2014 and immediately began meeting with authorities, humanitarian partners, and key stakeholders; while conducting assessments of the damages and working to meet the immediate needs of communities affected by the flooding.
In all, International Medical Corps’ ERT examined the condition of 27 health facilities across 13 flood-affected municipalities and created a consolidated report regarding their condition and rehabilitation needs. This report was shared with national and international authorities, informing response plans. International Medical Corps’ ERT then worked with these partners to plan how they could support the restoration of flood-affected health centers and their related health care delivery systems.
During the assessment visits in Maglaj and Doboj, International Medical Corps’ ERT found that the basement levels and 1st floor of two municipal health centers were severely damaged by the water, including diagnostic equipment essential to providing appropriate care for patients. The Domaljevac and Samac health centers saw their entire ground floor flooded. Because the Maglaj, Domaljevac and Samac municipalities have no functioning hospitals where patients can seek medical diagnostic services, they were listed as priority for rehabilitation. Many other smaller rural health centers also got flooded, and as a result, patients had to travel to distant health facilities that were unaffected by the flooding and could support their health needs.
International Medical Corps’ ERT Leader, Marin Tomas warned that, “the increased burden on these health centers has increased waiting time for patients to get access to medical diagnostics to several days or months. Patient transport costs to distant health facilities to get basic screens such as X-ray, ultrasound diagnostics, ECG or laboratory tests will soon exceed value of diagnostic equipment purchase if the situation is not resolved quickly”.
Building Back Better: In partnership with the Red Cross Society of Bosnia, and additional input from partner organization Luftfahrt ohne Grenzen (LoG)/ Wings of Help, International Medical Corps assisted under-resourced Ministries of Health to restore health services in affected municipalities. Essential medical equipment and staff training was supplied to damaged health facilities as determined by International Medical Corps’ assessment, and included Maglaj, Samac, and Domaljevac as priority target areas of support, with provision of equipment to some other health facilities determined at a later date.
In Croatia, International Medical Corps also provided a supply of new medical equipment for Djurici/Racinovci Health Center to replace those damaged by the flooding. The nearly $10,000 in equipment will help restart health services greatly needed by the affected community. International Medical Corps’ team helped ensure that all health facility personnel were properly trained on use of the new equipment in both Croatia and Bosnia.
International Medical Corps and LoG’s partnership also provided a fully equipped ambulance vehicle to Maglaj Health Center, which suffered significant damage in the flooding. This equipment enabled the health center to restore its emergency transport services for the coverage population of nearly 20,000.
Upon request of the Ministry of Health of Federation Bosnia and Herzegovina, International Medical Corps also supported the creation of a special webpage aimed to provide information on flooding and serve as an information resource on health, hygiene, and sanitation in the wake of the natural disaster.
Providing Food to Disaster-Stricken Communities: To bolster support to communities in need, International Medical Corps secured over €1 million in food and relief items donated by long-time partner, LoG/Wings of Help.
Approximately 100 tons of children’s food from organic sources came from reputable manufacturers, such as Hipp, Hassia and Milupa, and was sent to Bosnian municipalities in need, while an additional aid convoy was routed to flood-affected communities in Croatia and Serbia. Distribution of these assistance items was facilitated by International Medical Corps’ partnership with the Red Cross Societies of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. Approximately 7,000 children benefited from three meals a day for one month as a result of the assistance provided by LoG and International Medical Corps.
More heavy rainfall and flooding in June and the beginning of August caused further damage in some municipalities, and affected families are again in need of support. International Medical Corps’ logistics experts are currently facilitating the delivery of the relief items, again with the support of the Red Cross Society of Bosnia.
Conclusion: Without the support of International Medical Corps and funders like GlobalGiving, many people in areas that suffered from the effects of massive flooding would still be in need of health services, children’s food, and other humanitarian assistance. Thanks to the rapid response of the International Medical Corps’ ERT and its close coordination with governmental, international, and local partners on the ground, thousands in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia were supported in their time of need. While this project is fully funded and complete, International Medical Corps remains committed to responding where disaster strikes by ensuring a lasting positive impact is made in affected communities.
September 15, 2014 - Los Angeles, Calif. – A new Ebola Treatment Unit was opened today in Bong County, Liberia, bringing the total number of facilities capable of treating the disease in the country to six. The facility was opened by International Medical Corps at the site about 120 miles north of Monrovia - only the second location in the country, outside of the capital, capable of treating patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus. With the opening of this facility, International Medical Corps is one of only two international NGOs in the world to be treating Ebola patients.
International Medical Corps will operate the facility, beginning with 10 patients and gradually scaling up to 70 beds within weeks. Once at full capacity, the facility will employ more than 200 specially-trained medical staff, 90% of whom will be Liberians.
“We greatly appreciate the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) and Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance’s (ODFA) swift and generous support that enables International Medical Corps to open this critically needed facility in Bong County,” said Nancy A. Aossey, President & CEO, International Medical Corps. “Ebola is one of the most virulent diseases in the world and continues to claim lives on a daily basis. The treatment of suspected and confirmed Ebola patients is hugely challenging, and requires extensive infection control measures. The Bong County Ebola Treatment Unit is equipped to provide quality, dignified care to patients, while also ensuring that families and communities are protected from potential exposure. This is the only way to effectively prevent new infections and eventually turn the tide on this outbreak.”
At least 1,700 people in Liberia have been infected with the Ebola virus and more than 870 have died during the recent outbreak. Of Liberia’s 15 counties, 10 have reported confirmed Ebola cases, while three other counties have reported suspected Ebola cases.
Sean Casey, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team Leader in Liberia commented, “Last week, in one day alone, ten new suspected Ebola cases were identified in Bong County. This is a crisis that is growing in scale and intensity. Everybody living in this part of Liberia is waiting for this facility to open and we will be working day and night to treat patients and to get the facility up to full capacity as quickly as possible.”
Background: In the fall of 2013, International Medical Corps and its corporate partners (Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Co., Ltd.) conducted a three-part workshop series on Business Continuity Planning (BCP) to help local Japanese non-government organizations (NGOs) create solutions to risk-related challenges and better prepare for future emergency response and recovery efforts. Due to popular demand, International Medical Corps conducted another similar workshop series from February – May of 2014.
During several follow-up conversations with organizations that participated in previous BCP planning workshops, International Medical Corps learned that many were still facing difficulties getting all of their staff members to gain an understanding of what their BCP is, and the importance of preparing for emergency situations at the headquarters level.
Advanced BCP Training: To assist the capacity-building efforts of these organizations, International Medical Corps is offering advanced BCP training for willing organizations. On August 5, 2014, AAR Japan was the first organization to accept the opportunity to have International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine facilitate a private tabletop exercise to give AAR Japan’s management staff a taste of what it would be like for them react in an emergency situation.
In total, 17 staff members from AAR Japan, including the director-general and senior management staff members, participated in the two-hour simulation exercise. The participants were divided by their work departments (i.e. administration, communications, and operations), and the disaster scenario was set as follows:
An earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale hits Tokyo at 10:30AM, with 70% of the Greater Tokyo Area experiencing a quake of 6.0 or stronger. Buildings are damaged and fires ensue in multiple neighborhoods. Everyone in the AAR Japan building evacuates to a nearby public park... 2 hours later, it is confirmed that the AAR Japan building is safe to re-enter.
The simulation exercise was divided into two parts: (1) the initial response (between 12:30 – 2pm, approximately two hours after the earthquake); and (2) restoration of operations.
Part 2 of the exercise was further divided into Phase I and Phase II: Phase I started at 2pm, three and a half hours after the earthquake, running until the end of day one; and Phase II covered the day after the disaster:
Phase 1 (2pm): Power outages continue, and office desktop PCs are unusable. Internet connectivity to laptop PCs and cell phones is minimal and the server cannot be accessed. AAR had originally been planning to send money to its overseas operations but they now cannot wire money via net-banking because they cannot use the internet. Calls to the bank are not going through and it is unclear whether the banks are operating.
Phase 2 (the day after the disaster): Train and subway systems have been shut down in many parts of the Tokyo Area; traffic congestion continues. Due to transportation difficulties, as well as, damage to homes and/or affected family members some AAR staff are unable to come in to work. Around 60% of the staff are available, either because they stayed in the office overnight or are able to walk to work the next day. Scheduled power outages have also started, and Laptop PCs and mobile phones will soon run out of their batteries and cannot be recharged. Donors and members have been trying to reach the office with offers of donations but have largely been unsuccessful. Staff members who had stayed overnight are showing signs of exhaustion.
The workshop facilitator gave each group timed tasks in accordance to the specific timelines (for example, during the initial response, each group had 20 minutes to brainstorm and come up with their department’s list of priority tasks that need to be completed within the first two hours of the disaster). During the simulation of the initial response, AAR Japan received regular situational updates by monitoring reports on a large TV screen regarding traffic conditions, public transportation conditions, fires, power outages, etc. Each group was then responsible to keep up with the updates while also working on their assigned tasks. The Director-General oversaw all activities at a distance and received reports from each group regarding updates and priority work areas.
Results: Through this fast-paced exercise, many issues that had yet to be resolved with AAR Japan came to light, including:
Overall, the feedback from the participants was very positive, including the following comments:
Masayuki Okada, Administrative Officer and the focal point for this BCP exercise, summed up his impressions by saying, “I think this exercise helped us all to realize how much work we still have to do to prepare ourselves for a disaster. We always meant to, but never got around to stockpiling emergency supplies such as food, water, and disposable toilets for our staff. If we lose electricity, most if not all of our work will grind to a halt, so we seriously need to consider investing in a generator.”
Mr. Okada continued, “Other issues include not having an alternative workspace if our office ever became damaged, and how our BCP doesn’t specify which staff member is in charge of certain roles in case of an emergency. This exercise allowed us to experience a little bit of the chaos a disaster causes, and has helped management-level staff to have a better appreciation of the urgency of these issues. Now that we all have this shared sense of urgency, this is the ideal time to push forward with strengthening our level of preparedness. Additionally, we will be sharing the highlights of this exercise with other staff at our annual ‘Joint Conference for Internationally-Posted Staff & HQ Staff,’ which will be held at the end of this month. We truly appreciate the opportunity International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine has given us, and we will be sure not to waste the lessons we learned through this exercise.”