International Medical Corps has been operating in Somalia since 1991, when it became the first American non-governmental organization (NGO) to arrive in the war-torn Somali capital of Mogadishu after the overthrow of President Siad Barre. Throughout the past two decades, International Medical Corps has implemented health; nutrition; livelihoods; and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs in multiple locations of Somalia, implementing programs that build local health care capacity, while serving the immediate health needs of the most vulnerable men, women and children.
In October 2012, heavy rains in south central Somalia caused the region’s main river, the Shebelle, to reach its highest levels in 50 years, resulting in burst banks and unprecedented flooding. Beledweyne, a city with a population of 144,000, was one of the worst-affected areas and suffered severe damage to a wide range of critical public infrastructure and homes, which resulted in the extensive displacement of families.
The floods have had a particularly devastating effect on this community, which was already struggling to recover from the 2011 drought that destroyed their farms, livelihoods, and homes. An estimated 34,602 people displaced by the drought and then the flood currently reside in Beledweyne, and generally depend on shallow wells and boreholes to meet their domestic water needs, most of which were destroyed and/or heavily contaminated by the severe flooding. On average, these people must now travel 3-4 miles by foot to find clean water, as sourcing water from the Shebelle River and shallow wells now exposes them to dangerous, water-related diseases.
Over the last 18 months, International Medical Corps, with support from Global Giving and other donors, implemented a program in Beledweyne to ensure that the most vulnerable, including displaced persons, women and youth, have increased access to safe and reliable water supplies. To achieve this goal, International Medical Corps identified and rehabilitated three water sources; and trained local residents to act as water management committee members to ensure the rehabilitated water sources remain clean while also educating the community about proper water handling, storage and treatment techniques.
In order to deliver this program, International Medical Corps’ team in Beledweyne first conducted an assessment, in collaboration with the local community, to select the three most effective water points for rehabilitation. Selection criteria included:
The three communal water points selected for rehabilitation are located in three different communities in Beledweyne, helping to ensure access to clean water for the greatest number of people. Overall, the rehabilitation of the three wells now provides access to safe water for more than 1,500 households -- approximately 7,900 people!
The next step of the program was to select and train water management committee members to maintain the rehabilitated wells and teach the community proper water handling techniques. After consulting with community leaders, 15 water management committee members were identified from the villages with rehabilitated water sources (5 committee members per rehabilitated well).
Between March 11 and 12, 2014, the committee members took part in a comprehensive training, based on internationally-accepted standards, on water source management. In addition, they completed a one-day training on hygiene promotion together with community leaders selected in collaboration with village elders. The key tasks of these water management committee members includes promotion of safe water and sanitation practices and maintenance of the rehabilitated wells.
In addition to training water management committee members, teams provided a one-day training workshop to the communities surrounding the wells on March 12, 2014. Participants in this workshop included key community leaders from the areas most affected by waterborne diseases in recent years, including Buntaweyn, Kooshin, Hawataako and Hawlwadaag. A total of 21 participants received training on the effects of consuming contaminated water, and how to spread community awareness of the issue and treatment of contaminated water. Other topics covered included the importance of hygiene, for individuals and households, the importance of using safe water to clean and prepare food, and proper waste disposal.
Finally, International Medical Corps, in collaboration with other organizations working in Somalia and the previously trained community leaders, provided training to communities to increase awareness of the importance of protecting water sources. During this one-day community mobilization meeting, International Medical Corps used a hands-on, participatory approach to inspire action and encourage community members to take leading roles in the planning, management, monitoring and evaluation of their water sources.
Through the generous support of Global Giving and other donors, International Medical Corps was able to provide desperately needed clean water to communities affected by the 2011 drought and 2012 flooding in Beledweyne, Somalia benefitting 1,500 households and 7,900 people. With better access to clean water, families will be exposed to fewer waterborne diseases, improving their overall health. Moving forward, community members now have the skills to ensure that the rehabilitated water points continue to provide clean water for years to come and that hygiene messages and training are spread throughout the communities. Embedding skills in the community lies at the heart of International Medical Corps’ mission: building self-reliance.
International Medical Corps’ work in Japan focuses on disaster risk reduction and training for local organizations – so they are better prepared to face a future emergency and meet the needs of local communities. Our team works hand-in-hand with these local organizations to identify gaps in emergency preparedness and response efforts, and help build their response capacity so they can effectively respond to a local emergency even if they are directly affected by the disaster.
In the fall of 2013, International Medical Corps and our corporate partners conducted a three-part workshop series on Business Continuity Planning to help local Japanese non-government organizations (NGOs) create solutions to risk-related challenges and better prepare for future emergency response and recovery efforts. When asked about issues not covered in the first series of workshops, NGO participants said that information management and information security remained a major concern when delivering humanitarian assistance.
While many Japanese NGOs understand they have a responsibility to protect their information, they often do not have the systems, policies, or procedures necessary to protect the information against various elements of risk. When a disaster strikes, the need for proper information management techniques becomes even more critical, as new information regarding program needs and beneficiaries can increase exponentially. At the same time, systems to safely and securely store information about program participants may be affected by the disaster and subsequent power outages and resource restrictions. Based on feedback from the local NGOs, International Medical Corps worked with local, corporate partners Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Co., Ltd., both experts in risk management, to create a three-part workshop to help organizations meet the increased information management demands that come with a disaster response.
On February 25, 2014, International Medical Corps successfully conducted part one of this series. Nozomi Kawashima (a certified Information Privacy Consultant at Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Ltd.) and Yosuke Sakamoto (Senior Consultant in the Business Risks Department at Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co.) jointly taught participating NGO management staff members about the fundamentals of information management. After hearing specific examples of information management risks faced by corporations and discussing examples from their own organizations, program participants identified common information security risks and worked in groups to complete an information assets identification exercise based on a case study of an imaginary NGO. This exercise helped these local organizations better appreciate and identify security and information managements risks in their own organizations.
The second workshop, held on April 23, 2014, continued using the case study of the imaginary NGO from the previous session. Groups were asked to imagine they were all working for this particular NGO that mistakenly leaked private information about its beneficiaries on a public domain, and to work backwards to identify specific steps it could have taken to prevent this problem from occurring, again helping organizations to better manage security risks in their own entities.
During the third workshop session on May 20, 2014, organizations were given advice about how to monitor and continuously improve their information management process, as well as, how to raise awareness and educate their staff on a regular basis regarding the do’s and don’ts of dealing with information.
Assignments were given to participants before and after each workshop, and the lessons were shared internally with their staff members so that the trainings transferred beyond just the individuals participating in the workshop. At the end of the workshop series, each NGO was equipped with the tools to create its own information management and risk assessment systems that fit its respective organizational needs, including a comprehensive template for an information management rulebook that can be tailored to their organization’s context.
Below are some quotes from the workshop participants describing how this series helped their organizations:
Nozomi Ashida, Administrative Manager for Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Japan - “With the guidance of the experts, we were able to really look at what kinds of information our organization deals with and the different risks we faced with each kind. Once we finish creating our guidelines, we will hold study sessions within our organization so all the staff can have a shared understanding of what information management is for us and to make sure we are all able to implement the new rules.”
Junya Hosono, Administrative Manager for Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC) – “Step by step, the workshops led me through the information management process and was easy to follow. I also appreciated that the consultants incorporated examples based on the unique circumstances of NGOs when preparing the workshop material. This made it easy for me to understand the lectures and group activities and was also helpful when I reviewed all the material again on my own. I’m eager to share what I’ve learned with my colleagues and really start building JVC’s information management system.
Yoko Asakawa, Information Manager for JEN – “I joined these workshops because, as JEN’s Information Manager, I felt the need to improve our level of information security. This series allowed me to gain a comprehensive understanding of the concepts behind information management. Through the workshop, group activities, and homework assignments, I was able to “do” as I learned and actually go through the process of creating new rules and regulations for my organization, which further deepened my understanding of the topic. The workshops were very practical, and I gained some hints on how I can share what I’ve learned about information security within my organization.”
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where rape and sexual violence are often used as a weapon of war, International Medical Corps is applying a holistic approach to support survivors. By providing medical treatment, psychosocial support, and livelihood opportunities, International Medical Corps is helping survivors of gender-based violence build a better future for themselves and their families. One such survivor is Kalonge -- a 27 year-old woman who participated in our programs in Kalonge, DRC.
In her own words:
“In 2008, my family was attacked by members of the Forces Democratic for the Liberation of Rwanda who killed my husband after raping me, and then burned down our house. We took refuge in Rambo with a generous family, where I spent my three weeks of mourning. When calm returned, I had to return to my village with my family, but I had no home to return to. I returned with my four children and stayed with a neighbor who had already rebuilt her hut."
“After three months, life had become increasingly difficult because the space was insufficient for two families. In the fourth month, the neighbor said she was tired of the conditions in which the family lives, and she asked us to find another place to stay. That day, I was shocked and felt as if the world turned against me. I began to remember my husband and thought that if he were here, I would not be suffering. I did not want to continue living, but I had to live for the sake of my children. I even thought about selling part of the land my husband left me, so that I can use the money to build a house."
“Eventually, I decided to see a pastor of a Protestant church in the village to explain my problem, hoping that he could help me. He wanted to help me and my family, but did not have enough space in his house to accommodate us. He welcomed us to stay at the church and promised to mobilize members of his church to contribute towards the construction of a new house for my family. The church members, however, declined to mobilize resources because I was not a member of the church."
“For four years I suffered with my children in a church where I could not light a fire or cook. This development began to gnaw at my heart, and I hung around the church because I did not have anywhere to go."
“One day, when I was returning from the field, I met an old acquaintance. It was a woman with whom I had grown up during our childhood. We had time to talk about life, but I did not know she had become a community volunteer. After I told her about my suffering, she invited me to her house where I got some food and other items for my family."
“The next day she came to see me at church where I was still staying with my children. That's when she told me about a program that supports people who are facing similar challenges. I thought to myself that I'm not really interested because the advice they will give me there cannot build a house for my family, but I gave myself the courage to go to the community center for advice about the rape that I had suffered, because the experience kept coming back to me and it was very painful to my heart."
“A woman greeted me, accompanied by my old acquaintance who originally told me about International Medical Corps. We talked for a long time, and she gave me advice and some food and clothes. That day, I realized that I would take control of my recovery so that I could raise my family. After two meetings with her, I was given a paper to take to another office where we had a conversation with a woman who worked there. She told me that I could train with other women in similar circumstances on how to identify our skills that can be used for activities that would help us earn money. At the meeting, I chose to sell peppers because I knew how to do it because I used to help my mother when I was young. I worked with the woman to plan how to support my family selling peppers, and she helped me collect all the materials I needed to start my new business."
“The first day I went to the market, I was determined to earn the money needed to build a house for my children. I received 15 measures of peppers that I sold in less than four days. Pepper is a rare and seasonal product and I was among the few people who knew where to find them. In two months, I had earned a profit of $160 because I was saving all the money I was earning. The following month, I made roughly $120, part of which I saved and part of which I used for the care of my family."
“As the months went on, I gradually started buying nails, sticks and other building materials that I used to construct a two-room house where I now live with my children. I can now also pay for my children’s school fees. I joined other women, and together, we formed a village savings and loan association (VSLA), and I continue to think of new ways to improve my income through other activities. I have already purchased a few iron sheets with earnings from the village savings and loan association, and I hope to have an iron sheet roof soon."
“I am very grateful for the help I received from International Medical Corps, and it feels like my life is improving.”