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Sep 4, 2020

Final Report on Puerto Rico Earthquake Response

Our team visits an informal camp for survivors
Our team visits an informal camp for survivors

This will be our final update as International Medical Corps’ emergency response to the Puerto Rico earthquakes is drawing to a close.

To continue supporting International Medical Corps in Puerto Rico, please visit our “Emergency Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)” project to learn about our global response to the pandemic.

Learn more about our Coronavirus response here:

On January 7, 2020, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck Puerto Rico – the strongest quake recorded on the island in more than 100 years – causing power outages across the island and cutting off access to safe drinking water. Damage from the quake and the months of aftershocks that followed left thousands displaced from their homes, residing in evacuation shelters and informal camps with limited access to safe water, sanitation and proper hygiene. More than 250,000 people needed assistance. 

International Medical Corps’ team, based in San Juan, responded quickly and deployed to the most impacted areas of southern Puerto Rico within 48 hours. We provided some 7,000 men, women and children across eight municipalities and 34 evacuation shelters in Puerto Rico with mental health and psychosocial support, relief supplies and increased access to hygiene and nutrition support.

The chaos, uncertainty and loss of homes, community and livelihoods caused by the recurring earthquakes and aftershocks were devastating to people’s mental health and put survivors at risk of psychological distress. Working with a team of 49 volunteers previously trained in Psychological First Aid (PFA), International Medical Corps provided emotional support and practical help to 999 individuals, including 134 children suffering from distress after the earthquake. Our team also trained 90 community leaders on the principles of PFA to help their communities be their own best first responders to future disasters.

With homes damaged and thousands displaced, evacuation shelters and informal camps were set up but lacked access to safe water, sanitation and proper hygiene. Some families were living in large shelters while others resided in small camps set up on public/private land or remained tentatively in their homes but slept in tents or cars overnight.

For example, a fisherman and father of two moved his family to a state-run camp for the municipality of Ponce after their home sustained significant damage during the earthquake. Heavy rains caused the area near the state-run camp to flood, forcing families who had moved there for safety to relocate once again. The fisherman found a camp nestled under an on/off-ramp that leads to the main highway. At night, the area was dark apart from the lights of passing cars, but he preferred the easy access the highway gave his family to flee in the event of any new emergency. The family welcomed the tent and solar lantern provided by International Medical Corps.

International Medical Corps reached thousands of people like the fisherman and his family with soap, towels, toothbrushes, toothpaste, tents, cots, portable showers and more to keep families healthy and prevent the spread of disease.

We thank the GlobalGiving community of donors for bringing awareness and support to International Medical Corps’ response efforts to the Puerto Rico earthquakes.

The earthquakes damaged homes displacing thousands
The earthquakes damaged homes displacing thousands
Aug 27, 2020

Final Report - Philippines Emergency Response

The extensive damage caused by Typhoon Phanfone.
The extensive damage caused by Typhoon Phanfone.

As International Medical Corps’ emergency response to Typhoon Phanfone and the Taal Volcano eruptions draws to a close, this will be our final update.

To continue support International Medical Corps and our GlobalGiving Projects, please visit our “Emergency Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) project, where International Medical Corps is providing a global response to the pandemic, including reaching the Philippines.

Learn more about our Coronavirus response here:

Typhoon Phanfone made landfall in the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines on December 24, 2019. The category 2 storm affected more than 3.2 million individuals and displaced more than 130,000 residents. Virginia, a member of the community affected by the storm says “all that was left to us was a wall on one side of what used to be our house.”

Only weeks later, on January 12, 2020, the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) reported that eruptive activity at the Taal Volcano main crater had intensified, with ashfall landing as far as Quezon City, some 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, away from its location in Taal, Batangas. The eruptive activity affected more than 736,000 people and damaged 14,082 homes.

International Medical Corps’ team deployed to some of the most affected areas in Biliran and Eastern and Western Samar in Eastern Visayas as well as to surrounding areas of Batangas province to begin meeting communities’ most urgent needs and helping them to recover following Phanfone and Taal, respectively. Then, on January 30, 2020 the country faced the first death due to COVID-19 outside of Mainland China.

While activities have been impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic restricting travel, International Medical Corps is partnering with municipal health offices to ensure impacted community members receive the critical support that continues to be needed.

In order to respond to both the impacts of natural disasters’ devastation as well as the realities of COVID-19, International Medical Corps is integrating COVID-19 prevention messaging into the distribution relief supplies and hygiene materials. This not only prevents the spread of disease and keep families healthy as a result of natural disaster, but also support the ongoing pandemic response.

Dr. Nelsie, Municipal Health Officer of Balangkayan, Eastern Samar, states,
“Thank you for the generous support to our communities, who continue to need access to safe water, as well as hygiene supplies. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, we believe it will be even more helpful to the families affected by Typhoon Ursula [Phanfone].”

We thank the GlobalGiving community of donors for bringing awareness and support to International Medical Corps’ relief and recovery efforts in the Philippines.

Hygiene supplies distributed to affected families.
Hygiene supplies distributed to affected families.
Jul 17, 2020

DRC Confirms New Ebola Outbreak

Our team with the outbreak's first survivor
Our team with the outbreak's first survivor

On June 1, 2020, hopes of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) being declared Ebola-free were shattered once again.

Just three weeks before the 10th outbreak in the northeast was declared over and the entire DRC could be declared Ebola-free, a new outbreak was identified. The Congolese National Institute of Biomedical Research confirmed a cluster of deaths in Mbandaka, a city in northwestern DRC’s Equateur province, was the result of this new Ebola outbreak – the 11th in the DRC. As of July 16, the number of cases had risen to 56, including 53 confirmed and three suspected, with 21 deaths.

International Medical Corps deployed a Rapid Response Team to Mbandaka. Our team has been aiding communities since June 2 – just 24 hours after the government announced the new outbreak. We are providing case management services, the only partner to do so in the entire province. Our 20-bed Ebola Treatment Center serves Wangata and Mbandaka, two of the five affected health zones.

A quick end to this new outbreak may prove difficult. Challenges such as lack of access to healthcare, community resistance and few partners on the ground supporting the response explain why cases are rising exponentially. But the timing also poses a unique challenge.

Paula Olson, Response Manager for West, Central, Southern Africa at International Medical Corps, explains that, “This new outbreak in the northwestern part of the country comes at a time of tremendous concern over the spread of COVID-19 and its potential impact on the country from a public health perspective as well as economically.”

The DRC is simultaneously struggling to slow the spread of COVID-19. According to Olson, “The DRC has been highly susceptible to the spread of communicable diseases over the past year due to gaps within the health system. It is therefore important for our teams not only to address the most urgent needs, but also to help prevent future outbreaks.”

One way to mitigate the impact of future outbreaks is through training. In the wake of the 2018 Equateur province Ebola outbreak, International Medical Corps provided critical infection prevention and control training to 516 health in six health zones—Bikoro, Ikobo, Wangata, Mbandaka, Ntondo and Bolenge. The new outbreak currently impacts four of these same health zones but thanks to our training, the health staff are better equipped today than they were in 2018 to protect themselves from Ebola transmission and keep their facilities safe.

International Medical Corps thanks the GlobalGiving community for its critical support as we respond to the DRC’s newest Ebola outbreak.

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