International Medical Corps

International Medical Corps is a global humanitarian nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering through healthcare training, disaster relief, and long-term development programs.
Jan 6, 2017

Fighting Two Disasters in Haiti

Marie helps prevent cholera in her community
Marie helps prevent cholera in her community

Marie did not expect the storm to be so powerful. With Hurricane Matthew bearing down on Haiti, she gathered her children and huddled inside the home where she had lived for the past 16 years. Then the winds picked up, devastating her hometown, Rendel, nestled high in the mountains of Haiti. A tree crashed down across Marie’s home, smashing the roof, walls and the bed where her children normally slept. She and her children ran to a neighbor’s home to wait out the storm. When they emerged the next morning, Marie saw that everything they owned had been completely destroyed. “I didn’t save anything,” she said. “I couldn’t save it.”

Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti on October 4th as the most powerful storm to hit the Caribbean in over 50 years. An estimated 1.4 million people were affected, including some 600,000 children. Shelters and health centers were damaged, and infrastructure was destroyed, cutting off access to relief. Then another disaster unfolded – cholera. The disease has been active in Haiti since six months following the 2010 earthquake, but the storm ignited a surge in cases. More than 4,500 new cases have been reported in the southwest, the region where Marie lives. In isolated communities, like Rendel, cholera has been particularly deadly for lack of care. Marie explained, “After the hurricane, people kept dying of cholera. It is our biggest problem.”

International Medical Corps is focusing on reaching the hardest hit communities in the Sud and Grand’Anse departments in southwestern Haiti, where accessing isolated communities like Rendel is possible only by donkey, on foot or by helicopter. We are providing primary health care and nutrition screenings with mobile medical units in 15 communes. We have also made preventing and treating cholera a major priority. Our staff in special oral rehydration points and cholera clinics in the Sud are saving the lives of those suffering from aggressive cholera symptoms, and following up with patients with prevention services. In shelters and schools, we have been providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to help prevent the spread of disease. In November, we also helped the Haitian government and WHO implement a large-scale cholera vaccination campaign.

Marie was one of the people hired by the Ministry of Health to administer doses of the oral cholera vaccine to the people of Rendel. The vaccine will help keep her family and neighbors safe from cholera, as well as giving her some much-needed income. “I have been living in Rendel my whole life,” she said. “This was our worst disaster.”

We want to thank the GlobalGiving community for your support as we help the people of Haiti recover from Hurricane Matthew.

Destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew
Destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew
A young girl waits in line for a medical check-up
A young girl waits in line for a medical check-up
Jan 1, 2017

Cholera Excludes No One: A Nurse's Story

Christine is fighting cholera in Haiti
Christine is fighting cholera in Haiti

When the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, it was immediately followed by another disaster—a deadly outbreak of cholera. Christine was already an experienced nurse when she joined the International Medical Corps team. “I was especially shocked at the number of child victims,” she said. For Christine, it was a deeply personal cause—she lost her seven-year-old child in the earthquake, and she refused to watch more children perish from a preventable and treatable disease.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease and, if left untreated, can kill within a matter of hours. Following the 2010 earthquake, some 9,000 people died from cholera. Between 2015 and 2016 there was an increase in the number of suspected cholera cases, especially in the north, which has shown the highest vulnerability to cholera since the outbreak in 2010. When Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in October, massive flooding and widespread damage to infrastructure caused another outbreak across the Sud and Grand’Anse departments. Today, some 8,900 new cases of cholera are suspected across the country.

International Medical Corps has been working in Haiti since the earthquake in 2010, responding to ongoing medical needs, including cholera treatment and prevention. In the Nord and Nord-Est departments in the north, our team of nurses and hygiene experts supports health facilities during cholera outbreaks and operates three mobile medical units equipped with essential cholera medicines, and sanitation and hygiene items, such as soap and toothpaste. We have also significantly contributed to the improvement of cholera surveillance systems by early reporting and tracking of data on suspected cases, as well as case management to ensure patients get the follow-up care they need. Our teams also visit the patient’s home, apply chlorine treatments and provide education on sanitary conditions.

Following Hurricane Matthew, our teams deployed seven mobile medical teams to provide primary care to the hardest hit areas of the Sud and Grand’Anse departments. We are also providing clean water and sanitation support so that shelters and health facilities can remain open. Our teams established oral rehydration points to save the lives of those who are suffering from aggressive cholera symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting. Finally, to prevent the further spread of disease, we are supporting vaccination implementation and promoting clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

After the cholera epidemic of 2010, Christine was exhausted, both physically and psychologically, and stepped away from her role as a first responder with International Medical Corps, though she continued to work in health care and trained other nurses. When Hurricane Matthew struck, she rejoined our response team, saying, “In particular, I like the way International Medical Corps works on the ground. Their teams are really dedicated and take special care of children and patients.” Since then, she has treated dozens of suspected cholera patients, from as young as 3 years old up to 84 years old. She added, “Cholera excludes no one, but it is the poor and the vulnerable who suffer the most.”

We want to thank the GlobalGiving community for your support as we continue to provide life-saving cholera prevention and treatment to the people of Haiti.

Families stand in line to receive care
Families stand in line to receive care
Christine treating a young child
Christine treating a young child
Dec 29, 2016

Bringing Safe Water to Yemen Communities

Doa
Doa'a explains the importance of safe water tanks

Like most of International Medical Corps’ staff around the world, Doa’a is a member of the community she serves. She understands the problems in war-torn Yemen because they are her problems too. In May 2015, fighting broke out in Aden, forcing Doa’a and her family to flee their home in the city’s Touwahi neighborhood. After three months, they were able to return home, but Doa’a, now pregnant with her second child, is eager to move to a new neighborhood. She said, “The problem in Touwahi is water—or lack of it. In our new neighborhood, we will have eight hours of running water every day. In Touwahi, there is eight hours of water, but only every two days.”

Not only is Touwahi’s water supply limited, but it is also improperly stored. Doa’a explained, “The way it is stored here makes it relatively easy for mosquitos to breed that carry dengue fever.” In her role at International Medical Corps, Doa’a frequently teaches families about the dangers of contaminated or standing water, and she knew that the water supply in her own neighborhood was putting her family’s health at risk.

After more than a year and a half of conflict, Yemen’s civil war has led to the steady deterioration of humanitarian conditions, including a severe lack of water. An estimated 19.4 million people are without clean water and adequate sanitation. Neighborhoods that do have water often rely on open tanks, which can become contaminated or act as breeding grounds for vector-borne diseases. The war has also caused widespread shortages of fuel, which is required to operate water pumps.

In response to persistent needs, International Medical Corps supports seven health facilities and seven hospitals in Yemen by providing water trucks to keep healthcare providers operational in conflict-affected communities. We have coordinated with community leaders in Aden, as well as in Sana’a, Taizz and Ibb, to establish safe water storage tanks in areas with large populations of people internally displaced by the war. Our teams are also conducting hygiene promotion activities and plan to distribute ceramic water filters and hygiene kits, including items such as soap, toothpaste and toilet paper.

“We continue with our work against a backdrop of violence that is never far away,” Doa’a said of her International Medical Corps colleagues. She confided, “I carry the hope that this war will end soon. I would love to plan for our future and the future of our children, but, for now, conditions don’t permit that.”

We would like to thank the GlobalGiving community for helping us provide clean, safe water and hygiene supplies to the people of Yemen.

A child reads a hygiene pamphlet
A child reads a hygiene pamphlet
Doa
Doa'a examines blood samples of dengue patients
 
   

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