Holistic programming has been a key component of International Medical Corps’ Care, Access, Safety and Empowerment (CASE) program in Eastern Congo. The goal of the program is: “to protect vulnerable populations from physical violence and abuse to assist the Congo in its stabilization and gradual transition from a post conflict country to a developing one.” The program aims to increase access to and quality of medical, psychosocial, social, legal and economic services for survivors of sexual and gender based violence, and build community capacities to reduce vulnerability to future acts of violence and was designed to respond to widespread sexual violence in Eastern Congo which was greatly attributed to civil strife and presence of numerous armed groups who use rape as a weapon of war. Our holistic programs provide women with various types of support at local community centers. One specific area of support that has been much needed in the region is legal services. The following is one women’s story of how these services truly saved her life and gave her hope for her future as well as for her children’s future.
“I was raped twice in a span of one year. The incidences left me with severe abdominal pains and abandoned by my husband who was too ashamed to stay with me. He married another woman to replace me and often insulted and beat me up. To him, I was no longer his wife but the wife of the interhamwe. I was often humiliated, left without food and forced to continue working as a porter despite my medical condition. I had to otherwise my children would starve. I was all they had.
I got an unexpected visit one day from a woman to whom I described my illness. She referred me to the hospital and encouraged me to join other women at the community center. When I went to the community center, I found out that there was a woman who assisted people who had problems. I started talking to the woman and she made me realize that what I went through was not my fault. She continued to help me have a different perception of myself, to stop thinking of myself as worthless but someone who is useful in the community. But how does one continue with life if her husband has brought another woman to live with her in the same house and is insulted and beaten almost daily? After a few months, I went to see the lawyer at the community center and told him my problem. He called my husband and some family members for mediation. With the help of the lawyer, my husband stopped beating and insulting me. There was some peace. I received a kit with materials to start a small business. As the business grew, I gained more confidence because I was no longer relying on people to feed my children when my husband did not provide me with money. I feel I have my dignity back because I am no longer begging for anything. Sometimes I remember the incidences I went through and I choose not to have negative feelings about them anymore. I look to the future and see myself as a strong woman who is contributing to the positive development of her children.”
With the generous support of Global Giving and other donors International Medical Corps is able to bring this life-giving hope to the women of the Congo who need it most.
On November 10, 2014, International Medical Corps and the Association for Aid and Relief Japan (AAR Japan), in partnership with local Persons with Disabilities (PWD) supporting organization Iwaki Jiritsu Seikatsu Center (IJSC), conducted its second emergency shelter simulation targeting the needs of PWDs. Over 100 people took part in this exercise, including 42 PWDs, 27 caregivers, and 11 junior high school students. The majority of PWDs participating this time had physical (wheelchair-bound), psychological, and/or mental impairments. The event took place again in the gymnasium of Iwaki City’s Nakoso Second Junior High School, the typical location for an emergency evacuation center in times of natural disaster in Japan.
After welcoming everyone to the event, a 5 minute DVD summary of the last simulation exercise was shown to the participants. They were then briefed on the lessons learned and suggestions given by the participants the last time. Yoshiyuki Komatsu from IJSC demonstrated how the lessons learned last time were incorporated into the mock emergency shelter set up in the middle of the gymnasium, such as putting in tactile paving to assist the visually impaired to navigate the space, making sure aisles were wide enough to accommodate wheelchair users, and reserving living spaces near exits for the physically impaired. Participants were encouraged to explore the mockup during their free time and to give their feedback as well as other improvements that they felt should be made.
Similarly to the last emergency shelter simulation exercise we conducted in July, the participants were then split into 4 groups consisting of PWDs, caregivers, students and members of the general public. Each group took turns participating in activities at 4 “checkpoints.” Each checkpoint had a designated facilitator to give a short interactive lecture on the topic and to encourage the participants to think about the issue at hand and come up with solutions to identified obstacles. One junior high school student was appointed as note-taker for each group to record the participants’ comments and the important points made at each checkpoint.
Checkpoint 1: “Communicating” – Caregivers and other participants played the role of registration desk officials while PWDs practiced conveying essential information about themselves and their needs at a mock registration desk.
Checkpoint 2: “Emergency Rations: What Should We Eat?” – The facilitator showed the participants all the different kinds of emergency food we would all be having for lunch and explained how each item was being prepared by the volunteers. Additionally, he explained that emergency rations didn’t need to be these specially packaged foods with a 3 to 5 year shelf-life; emergency rations can just as easily be canned and dried goods with a shorter shelf life, eaten during normal times and restocked. It was stressed that those who have food allergies or other nutritional constraints needed to make sure to store foods that fit their needs and to be aware of the ingredients in the foods they are served at emergency shelters.
Checkpoint 3: “Handy Emergency Goods” – PWDs and their caregivers were given a short lecture about things around the house that come in handy in times of disaster, including flashlights, leather gloves, and towels. The facilitator also demonstrated the sound of a 3000hz whistle, which is the audio frequency most recommended by experts because of its ability to be heard over long distances by most people. Every participant received a similar whistle at the end of the day.
Checkpoint 4: “Taking Care of Our Health during a Disaster” – The facilitator stressed the importance of having a go-bag containing enough medication to last at least 3 days and of carrying around a copy of the list of medications one needs. As it is likely that symptoms can be aggravated by the stress of disasters, it was also stressed that it is crucial to talk with one’s doctor and caretakers and plan how to handle such situations. Once at an emergency shelter, one should not hesitate to tell those in charge of one’s needs (e.g., having to use the toilet, being unable to sit on the floor, being cold or thirsty, etc.) and to ask for assistance.
After the checkpoint exercise, the participants enjoyed a buffet-style lunch consisting of various kinds of emergency rations.
In the afternoon, the participants took part in three activities:
Registering at a Welfare Shelter: PWDs assisted staff members from Iwaki City Hall to pilot a questionnaire designed for the registration of PWDs at welfare shelters in times of emergency. Welfare shelters in Japan are shelters that accommodate to the needs of those with physical/medical/other needs that cannot be met at a traditional emergency shelter. The staff members commented that they greatly appreciated the honest feedback given to them by the PWDs and that they would work to improve the questionnaire to make it easier for PWDs to convey their needs.
Making My Own Space: This activity was particularly popular during the last simulation exercise so we incorporated it into this program as well. PWDs created their own sleeping/living spaces in the gymnasium using material such as cardboard and duct tape. Caretakers and volunteers assisted the PWDs with cutting and arranging the material to suit their needs.
Navigating while Blindfolded: Participants used blindfolds and walking sticks to experience what it is like to be visually-impaired. With the help of a seeing navigator, each participant was encouraged to walk around the gymnasium and within the shelter mock-up.
After the afternoon activities, all the participants came together to share their experiences of the day. The student note-takers took turns summarizing the comments made by their group and what they had collectively learned. Finally, some of the PWDs gave their feedback on the event. All in all, the participants expressed satisfaction with the day’s event. One participant commented that she wished they could have had more participants with other disabilities so there would be even more diversity and they could all learn how to support each other.
This event drew much local media attention as the only emergency shelter simulation of its kind (i.e., focusing on the needs of PWDs). Staff members from Iwaki City’s Social Welfare Council also came to observe the program and commented that they hoped to use this event as a model for future simulation activities throughout the city and perhaps even throughout Fukushima Prefecture.
International Medical Corps, in partnership with Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., is continuing to provide training in Business Continuity Planning (BCP) to Japanese NGOs in the form of in-house lectures and tabletop exercises to build their organizational capacity to respond to disasters quickly and efficiently. NGOs requesting training by International Medical Corps include: Care International Japan; ChildFund Japan; Japan Association for Refugees (JAR); Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC); Plan Japan; Save the Children Japan (SCJ); Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA); Shapla Neer. Trainings will all take place between October and December 2014.
BCP In-House Lecture for Save the Children Japan
On October 10, 2014, International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine provided 17 key staff members of Save the Children Japan (SCJ) with a BCP in-house lecture. SCJ was established in 1986 with a focus on child protection, disaster risk reduction and creating child-friendly communities in Japan. SCP also provides emergency humanitarian assistance, health, nutrition, and educational support, mainly in countries in Asia and Africa.
Takako Isoda, SCJ’s Administrative Manager, said, “We had set up a risk management working group within the organization to map out the various risks faced by our organization, but we had no idea how to lay out a plan to deal with so many kinds of risk. A number of us attended International Medical Corps’ BCP workshop last year and learned how to think about risk and how to craft a basic BCP. Using what we learned at that workshop, we spent half a year drafting SCJ’s BCP. Now that we finally had a complete draft, we were wondering how to best share its contents with our staff and make the draft more practical and concrete. It was with perfect timing that we received the offer from International Medical Corps for an in-house BCP lecture and tabletop exercise.
“We had the members of our risk management working group, the director-general, and all department heads and managers attend the BCP in-house lecture. The lecture focused on the basics of BCP thinking and really helped our key staff understand the importance of BCP. With the facilitation of a professional risk consultant, we also shared our newly-drafted BCP with everyone in the room. Our senior management commented afterwards that they felt they better understood what was in our BCP and that it was up to all of us to keep working on the BCP draft and make it a living document for the organization. We are all looking forward to the BCP tabletop simulation exercise in December, which will help us have a better sense of what works in the BCP and what needs to be improved.”
Emergency Scenario Tabletop Exercise for SVA
On November 12, 2014, International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine organized an emergency scenario tabletop exercise for Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA). SVA is a Japanese NGO founded in 1981 and dedicated to providing educational support and emergency relief activities in countries including Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Afghanistan. SVA has also carried out multiple relief activities in the aftermath of flood and typhoon disasters in Japan.
Because of its role as an emergency response organization, SVA had been conducting annual reviews of its emergency supplies and emergency guidelines. This simulation was the very first opportunity for the SVA staff to test their emergency guidelines. 26 out of 28 staff members at SVA’s Tokyo headquarters, including full-time and contract-based personnel, participated in the exercise. After Tokio Marine’s Kenichi Hamazaki explained the general flow of the day’s exercise, the staff returned to their desks as part of their “normal routine.” The simulation commenced a few minutes later with an earthquake (according to the scenario) that “struck” the building. For the duration of the simulation, the staff checked the whereabouts and safety of staff members, checked their emergency supplies, prioritized workload by department for the next few days after the disaster, and otherwise followed their emergency protocol. After the simulation, staff members split up into their respective departments and discussed the lessons they learned during the exercise and next steps forward.
Some comments from participants included:
Mariko Kimura, manager of SVA’s emergency response and preparation, commented, “Since almost all the staff members of SVA took part in this exercise, we were able to look at our emergency guidelines from many different perspectives and see that there are still many issues that we need to deal with (e.g., things we still need to prepare, steps that need to be more clearly outlined, etc.). Additionally, it was very helpful to learn that each department has different needs during and after a disaster. Having the consultant with us to facilitate both the simulation exercise and the follow-up discussion added a healthy dose of tension for the staff and made us all focus all the more on the day’s activities. Using the lessons we learned during this exercise and the advice we received from the consultant, we will be even better prepared to deal with any emergency. ”