July 15, 2013 — International Medical Corps' work with drought victims spans many sectors, providing a well-rounded approach to assisting vulnerable communities.
In Ethiopia, our programs work to educate the population through local staff and volunteers, One volunteer, Azeb, is an engaging young woman. Quick to laugh, people warm to her easily and she reciprocates shyly but with confidence. At 25, Azeb is the leader of an ever-growing network of youth groups in Damut Pullasa, Wolayita who are trained by International Medical Corps to educate their communities, and the youth in particular, on sexual and reproductive health.
Azeb's group, which has grown from 30 to 150 members in just 6 months, meets bi-weekly and discusses issues related to young people’s health and wellbeing. Trained by International Medical Corps, Azeb leads sessions on sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, HIV/AIDs and more.
Azeb also acts as a “big sister” to some of her flock, who turn to her when things go wrong. She mentions a younger member of the group who, upon realizing that she was pregnant, turned to Azeb for help, recognizing the strength of the support system of which she was a part. Azeb helped the girl to understand her options and worked with her and her family to help her through the difficult time.
“Times,” says Azeb, “have changed...women are not seen as a thing now; we have equality.” This is one of the issues that she is eager to help her sisters with—to look to a future not only of marriage, but to make something of themselves. With International Medical Corps’ help, Azeb is learning the skills necessary to become a true leader for her community, as well as a role model for girls who sometimes feel lost or without choices.
In Samburu, Kenya, International Medical Corps continues to address the chronic drought that has stressed already-vulnerable groups in the region.
International Medical Corps’ interventions include the renovation and upgrades of latrines, rainwater harvesting systems, and hygiene education and information dissemination. International Medical Corps completed this work in close collaboration with Samburu District’s Public Health Officers and Water Officers. These renovations, upgrades, and construction took place at both health facilities and local schools, providing community members with water points and acceptable latrine facilities.
International Medical Corps has also taught Public Health Officers and Water Officers how to test the quality of the water supply, providing the community with vital information on how to properly treat water for consumption.
In addition, health care workers, community health workers, and school health club members were trained on water treatment methods, hand-washing, and disease prevention. They were all encouraged to disseminate the information to their communities, providing valuable knowledge on basic hygiene practices.
Mr. Lempesi, the head teacher for Tangar Primary School, acknowledged International Medical Corps’ work. “The students here have to walk long distances to get clean, safe water. The nearest water sources was 4 kilometers (approximately 2.5 miles) away, and was very salty. It could not be used to drinking or eating. Female students often suffered the most as they were responsible for collecting water for the family. We allow pupils from far areas to fetch water from the tank to make it easier for them to come to school and avoid being absent. It is risky for the girls to go long distances to search for water, especially in this area with the wild animals and bush environment. Students can now wash their hands after visiting the latrines or when they want to eat.”
International Medical Corps’ top-down, bottom-up approach includes government officials and community members, ensuring a sustainable approach to drought relief in Samburu.
Recovery efforts from East Africa’s drought continue. International Medical Corps operates in many of the drought-stricken areas, including Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. Today, our focus is on creating sustainable solutions that will save lives in the future.
In Kenya, multiple rainwater harvesting projects will allow communities to gather and store rainwater, providing relief for both the population and their livestock. Prior to the installation of the rainwater harvesting systems, children would miss school as their families searched farther and farther from home for water. Livestock died from thirst, placing severe burdens on parents with families to feed. In these communities, water committees are developed through local leadership to establish a sustainable method of maintaining and sharing the systems.
In Ethiopia, our nutrition teams work to provide key information for caretakers on child nutrition. International Medical Corps teaches preventative strategies of malnutrition, stopping the problem before it starts. Adjacent to this, International Medical Corps also provides emergency feeding programs which offer therapeutic nutrition and essential nutrition support to households.
In Somalia, International Medical Corps improved access to safe water supply through rehabilitation of water sources. Berkhads are traditional water reservoirs that in many areas of Somalia are the only source of water for households and livestock in the dry season. They are manmade and usually sunk into the ground with a stone or brick wall and then plastered to minimize water leakage. They catch rain water and runoff in the rainy season and this water is then used through the dry season.
However, many berkhads are cracked from poor maintenance, allowing the leakage of precious water. Most berkhads are not fenced, allowing animals to drink directly from them and risking contamination of water. Neither are most berkhads covered, which also increases risk of contamination as well as increasing water loss through evaporation. By rehabilitating these berkhads to address these issues, access to clean water has dramatically increased and enabled improvement of both household health and the health of the livestock these households depend on for food and income.
International Medical Corps’ response to the East Africa drought continues. There is still work to be done in these countries, and we appreciate every dollar donated to our efforts. Without you, our accomplishments would not be possible. Thank you!
We often tell you about the individual lives our work touches so that you can understand the personal impact your support for International Medical Corps has. But in many ways, the sustainability of our efforts depends on the local health care workers we train. They help connect our critical health services with the people we aim to reach, and ensure that lifesaving skills and knowledge stay in local communities long after we’re gone.
So meet Semira (pictured).
Semira joined International Medical Corps in September 2011 as a Hygiene Promotion Field Officer working in the remote Dolo Ado refugee complex in Ethiopia, home to 10,000 Somali refugees. Here, International Medical Corps provides relief to thousands of refugees impacted by the severe drought that has inflicted wide-spread food insecurity and devastation across east Africa.
In Dolo Ado’s Kobe camp, Semira educates refugees on safe hygiene and sanitation practices to promote optimal health among families living in crowded and unsanitary conditions. Semira’s numerous responsibilities include conducting peer discussions on safe hygiene and sanitation practices at schools; weekly gatherings and focus groups for women; and house-to-house visits. She also organizes monthly jerry can cleaning campaigns at water points to ensure that families are keeping these containers (used to carry drinking water) free of disease-causing germs. To keep her skills up-to-date, Semira regularly participates in International Medical Corps’ monthly refresher training sessions.
Semira is proud of her work and notes that many of the households she has worked with have improved their hygiene and sanitation practices, including hand washing after bathroom use and before food preparation, proper disposal of household waste, and hygienic use of latrines.
Semira says, “I am hopeful that I will build on my community mobilization skills and hygiene and sanitation knowledge through additional capacity-building trainings provided by International Medical Corps…I also plan to go on to further education to gain management skills.”
It’s because of your support that Semira has positively impacted so many people’s lives in Kobe camp—and that she will continue to change lives for the better for many years to come. Thank you!
Halimo cares for her four young children alone, since her husband died in the brutal conflict that still rages in her native Somalia. In 2011 she fled drought and violence, making the 8-day journey by truck to Boqolmayo refugee camp in Ethiopia.
Once at the camp, Halimo was deeply concerned that she needed to repeatedly take her children to the medical clinic for treatment, as they were constantly falling ill and suffering from malnutrition.
Boqolmayo camp was built to accommodate 20,000 refugees, yet today nearly 40,000 people live there, placing a massive strain on the water supply and sanitation services in the camp. Diseases related to inadequate water and poor sanitation and hygiene practices such as skin diseases, eye infections, diarrhea and intestinal worms are a frequent feature of life in the camp.
This March we began a campaign to improve the hygiene and sanitation infrastructure at the camp. Before meeting with one of our Community Hygiene Promoters (CHP), Halimo had been fetching water using an old and dirty jerry can. She had no idea that this could be linked to the recurring bouts of diarrhea that her children had been suffering.
The CHPs taught Halimo about proper hygiene and sanitation practices, including hand washing at critical times, proper utilization of latrines, safe solid and liquid waste disposal, and proper storage and handling of water. Afterwards, Halimo began to attend our awareness-raising tea talks. For the last three months, she has been cleaning her compound, washing her and her children’s hands using soap and cleaning her jerry cans every other day.
“My children are healthy and growing well, and my first child is now in school!” says Halimo.
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