When 20-year-old Mohammed first arrived in Ethiopia’s Kobe Refugee Camp 6 months ago, he had never been employed, never been able to earn a salary, and had never received any formal education. A refugee from Northern Somalia, he had walked 6 days to escape the massive drought that has caused widespread suffering throughout the region. Soon after came what Mohammed described as “the turning point in my life.” International Medical Corps hired him as a Hygiene Promoter, a critical component to reducing the threat of communicable diseases in the crowded camps. Hygiene Promoters are trained by International Medical Corps and then share their knowledge throughout their communities, teaching others about proper hand washing techniques, the importance of using latrines, and properly cleaning jelly cans used to carry drinking water. Mohammed is one of many refugees in the Dolo Ado Camps we're training in hygiene promotion, as well as sanitation, nutrition and gender-based violence response, among other topics. The benefits are enduring: these trained Health Promoters multiply our efforts many times over, teaching others, providing sustainable health solutions within the camps. Plus, the program creates employment opportunities for families struggling to rebuild. Famine was officially declared in East Africa 6 months ago, and today an estimated 13.3 million people throughout Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya urgently need humanitarian relief. But these communities need more than a hand-out. They also need long-term solutions. By training and educating local men and women, we create a foundation to build a sustainable health care system for a healthier future. Says Mohammed: "...with the power of knowledge I have received through trainings on hygiene promotion, I am now able to improve sanitation and hygiene practices in my community. I now know that diarrhea can be prevented by using a latrine and by washing hands with soap and water and am in a position to pass on the message of safe hygiene practices and behaviors to my fellow community members. I will thank International Medical Corps one day when I reach home!"
After a massive humanitarian response, the UN recently announced that famine conditions are no longer present in Somalia. However, 1.7 million people still desperately need humanitarian relief to survive. In addition, food stocks in Somalia are expected to run low by May, adding to fears that the country could quickly slip back into crisis.
Working in East Africa since 1991, International Medical Corps will continue its lifesaving relief and recovery efforts, helping these vulnerable communities rebuild through training and education.
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