International Medical Corps has operated in Somalia since 1991, when it became the first American non-governmental organization to arrive in the war-torn Somali capital of Mogadishu after the overthrow of President Siad Barre. Since May 2012, International Medical Corps has been addressing a critical and growing gap in accessible healthcare services for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable populations in Mogadishu. In 2013-2014, International Medical Corps received funding to respond to the IDPs’ emergency water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs in Kismayo, Lower Juba Region. International Medical Corps has, as a result, been able to improve access to sanitation facilities by constructing 50 communal ventilated pit latrines in 20 IDP camps within five Kismayo settlements. In addition, International Medical Corps’ hygiene promotion activities, which began in July 2014, have benefitted more than 18,000 people.
Recently, International Medical Corps rehabilitated four shallow wells, one each in Hamdi 1, Wamo 1,Haji Pollo and Nageye IDP camps. Most of the people living in these IDP camps are people displaced by either insecurity or floods, or people who lost their livestock herds – and their livelihoods – as a result of drought. A total of 614 households – or a total of 3,684 individuals – benefitted from improved access to consistent sources of safe water from the four rehabilitated shallow wells.
Fatuma is a resident of Nageye IDP camp in Kismayo lower Jubba region, Somalia. She says that the long two-hour queues have disappeared. She now needs to wait a mere 10 minutes at the well rehabilitated by International Medical Corps. The replacement of the defective hand pump, the raising of the well apron, and the deepening of the well have significantly improved both the quality and quantity of the water. Before the rehabilitation, the well apron was open and the community used an improvised lifting device – a plastic container tied to a rope – which exposed the well to contamination. The water management committee identified a volunteer attendant to oversee the appropriate use of the well. According to Fatuma, when the well is not in use, the attendant locks the hand pump using a chain fixed to the well head. Xawo, a 24-year-old woman, confirms Mrs. Fatuma’s experience: “I take just a few minutes to draw water now, unlike the previous long queues and lack of an adequate amount of water. We are much better off now.” Another woman, Fartun, adds, “Since the well has been rehabilitated and elevated, and is no longer open, we don’t need to worry about the safety of our children.”
In a surprise visit to rehabilitated wells at Hamdi and Haji Pollo IDP camps, International Medical Corps staff had the opportunity to meet Halima, a 34-year-old resident of Haji Pollo IDP camp who was drawing water. She told them that previously the well had a lot of cracks, and dirty water from outside was dripping into the well and contaminating it. The well was also dangerous: seven months before a child fell into the well and had to be rescued, and children were able to easily drop debris into the well since it was always open. The community is grateful to International Medical Corps and the generous support of its donors, as both the quantity and quality of the water have significantly improved along with the safety of the well itself. Halima added that the elected water management committee was overseeing the smooth running of the well and educating the IDP camp members on proper hygiene. “We are very much appreciative of International Medical Corps’ initiative.” It is with the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors that International Medical Corps is able to complete such critically needed projects.
International Medical Corps is preparing to respond to Typhoon Koppu as it slowly barreled across the main island of Luzon on Sunday, bringing heavy rain and the potential for floods and landslides.
International Medical Corps prepositioned medical mobile kits and water/sanitation/hygiene supplies in advance of the storm. It is also coordinating with the Philippines government, UN agencies and other local and international relief groups. Its team of WASH specialists, a medical doctor, nurses, and logistician are preparing to conduct assessments of the affected areas and deliver relief.
Koppu, known locally as Lando, reached super typhoon strength as it came ashore early Sunday, ripping the roofs off buildings and uprooting trees in the province of Aurora. Roads and communications have been cut off, with power out in 22 towns and two cities, authorities said. So far about 15,000 people had taken shelter in evacuation centers, but the Philippines' disaster management agency said that number is expected to rise.
While some authorities estimated the storm’s maximum sustained winds of 150 mph when it made landfall, it has since lost some of its strength as it lumbers over land.
Koppu is the 12th storm to hit the Philippines this year. An average of 20 storms and typhoons each year batter the archipelago, one of the world's most disaster-prone, with a population of 100 million. A total of 40 million people are estimated to be in the areas affected by Koppu.
International Medical Corps has been operating in the Philippines since 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most ferocious storms on record to hit land, tore through the central part of the country, leveling entire towns and leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing. International Medical Corps has extensive experience in the region overall, having responded to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, and the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
Kais says he never expected all-out war to come to Yemen. But when it arrived last March and turned his life upside down, the 35-year-old water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) specialist working out of the International Medical Corps office in the city of Taiz, adjusted quickly to the extraordinary challenges it brought.
Previously involved in a community-level program to improve sanitation in remote areas of Taiz Governorate, Kais and his WASH team quickly became part of a broader effort on the part of international NGOs operating in Yemen to distribute emergency assistance to those caught up in the violence.
“In just 72 hours, we switched to emergency work,” he explained. “The setting of humanitarian work changed drastically and we had to adapt to it.”
It has been a demanding and dangerous task. In the months since the conflict erupted, Kais has worked long hours and made personal sacrifices—at one point turning his dwelling in Taiz into both an office and a safe place for his entire team of water and sanitation specialists so they could live and work amid the violence. He was also detained at a checkpoint once for hours amid heavy fighting in the area before finally being released. Through it all, Kais has focused on one goal: getting aid to those in great need.
The level of his commitment to help others in the heat of crisis, even in the face of great personal risk, is in the finest traditions of true First Responders. It is also an example of the dedication that enables International Medical Corps to operate successfully in the world’s most challenging environments.
“Kais and his team have demonstrated a positive and inspirational attitude during this emergency response, and have demonstrated a true humanitarian spirit which has been an example to us all,” said Judith Harvie, a senior member of International Medical Corps’ Yemen staff.
Living with his wife and two small children in a rural area 90 minutes from Taiz before the war began in March, Kais immediately rented an apartment in the city when the shooting started in order to be closer to the International Medical Corps office and those in the city who needed assistance. When a house near the office took a direct hit during an airstrike on the city, Kais ordered his team to evacuate, offering his new apartment as an alternative. As the violence escalated, Kais decided the safest, most efficient solution was for the team—14 in all—to move into the apartment and make it a temporary home-office until the fighting eased.
“We stayed together for two weeks until things calmed down,” he recalled. “Inside the apartment, we worked as one team, committed to the task of supporting those needing assistance. We planned our day according to events. We increased our efforts to support those forced to flee their homes because of the fighting and supported three hospitals in Taiz, including helping them get sufficient water supplies. We also tripled our distribution of hygiene kits, reaching more than three thousand families who had to leave their homes.”
Kais said that if he spots someone in obvious need of specialized care while conducting his own work as a WASH officer, he informs the appropriate International Medical Corps specialist. On one recent trip to the field, he came across a displaced mother feeding her baby dirty water because she had no milk of her own. He immediately reported her condition to members of the International Medical Corps nutrition team, who went to assist both mother and child.
Through it all, Kais says what drives him is the knowledge that his work makes a difference.
“Whether we work in development or emergencies, our interventions have a long term impact,” he says. “We not only train people. We create committees of volunteers who follow up to bring change to their own community.”
It is with the support of GlobalGiving and other donors people like Kais are able to make such a tremendous impact in the communities in which they work. Thank you so much for your continued support.