In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan International Medical Corps has remained in the Philippines to ensure that its ongoing support for local communities has a lasting impact. One key area of focus is mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), a critically needed response both immediately following a natural disaster such as Typhoon Haiyan and as part of a longer term initiative to help move local communities back to self-reliance. The following is an excellent example of one of International Medical Corps’ current MHPSS programs.
Michaela, 15, is a 9th grade student of Alangalang National High School where International Medical Corps’ MHPSS program had its first school awareness-raising event on September 25th 2014. Community awareness-raising activities aim to educate the public on mental health issues and concerns. Within the 17 municipalities with MHPSS programs, International Medical Corps has led community awareness-raising activities with local health workers, child daycare officers, community health team members, community captains or leaders, as part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (which is a national government program providing financial assistance to its beneficiaries), and with high school students and members of faith-based organizations. More than 9,500 people have attended and participated in International Medical Corps’ community awareness-raising activities.
Out of 469 students present for the Alangalang National High School event, Michaela caught the attention of Reggie, the community outreach officer seated right next to her. Michaela started opening up to Reggie about her personal experiences with being bullied. Michaela told her that she had not been able to open up to anyone before about this experience but she would like to have someone to talk to. They exchanged phone numbers in case Michaela wanted to contact Reggie for any reason. The night after the event, Reggie received a text message from Michaela saying that she was thankful for their short conversation.
Michaela described herself as being tall, brown and having a lot of hair on her body. She shared that her classmates have often bullied her, calling her ‘unggoy’ (monkey), and that she has avoided dealing directly with this situation. She expressed feeling a lack of confidence and a preference to take public transportation to school rather than walk the short distance because her classmates call her names when she walks on the street. Michaela also stated that at times she does not attend school because of being bullied and frequently hears the students’ taunting voices over and over again in her head. These experiences have made her feel ashamed.
Community awareness-raising activities not only bring information and education on mental health topics to individuals but also increase awareness about community and individual concerns affecting many community members. After the presentation, Michaela realized that she was a victim of bullying. She also realized that she was not the only one experiencing this. Michaela had never informed her teachers or parents about this prior to the presentation.
International Medical Corps’ community outreach officers, Allyssa and Reggie, went back to the school on December 11th to check on her. The community outreach officers coordinated their visit with the school officials and were referred to Michaela’s class advisor , Lalaine. Lalaine had no idea about Michaela’s bullying experience and was concerned to hear about it. She accompanied the community outreach officers when they visited Michaela at her home.
Michaela and her family live in a newly built house because the previous one was damaged by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. She quickly recognized Reggie when seeing her outside near the family’s well. She initially reacted shyly but shared a warm smile. The community outreach officers said they were there to check in with her and ask her about any lessons learned from the school event. Her advisor also joined in.
Michaela assured them that she could still remember what she learned from the awareness-raising event, especially on the topic of school bullying and stigmatization. She could not hold back her tears when talking about this. As Lalaine listened to what Michaela had to say, she expressed feeling surprised at never having heard about it from Michaela previously. They both expressed appreciation for the community awareness-raising activity as it shed light on this difficult issue and made it possible to address it productively.
During the community outreach officers’ conversation with Michaela, she said this event helped her a lot. It is undeniable that bullying is affecting students like her emotionally and socially. After the discussion, she had a better understanding of why teenagers bully others and how to cope if one is a victim. Michaela now spends a lot of time with friends who help her ignore the mean comments and remember that she is unique and special. There is nothing wrong with her just because she is different. Lalaine also helped put a stop to those bullying Michaela by talking with them and encouraged Michaela to talk with her openly about her feelings and school experiences. All of these changes were triggered by the school event and are an important example of the impact the generous giving of GlobalGiving and other donors can have. With your support International Medical Corps can continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan as they rebuild and improve their lives.
The presence of armed groups in Eastern DRC has resulted in devastating abuse, violence and looting of resources, leaving families in an unstable economic situation. Displaced populations cannot afford to meet basic needs like primary health care and, due to insecurity in the region, pregnant women can’t access health facilities for the delivery of their children. As mothers and newborns are exposed to the risk of contamination when delivery occurs at home, they are at increased risk for maternal and neonatal mortality. To help ensure that the lives of the mother and the child are safe, International Medical Corps provides clean delivery kits to pregnant women during antenatal care visits.
In the first three months of 2015, close to 2,000 pregnant women received clean delivery kits provided by International Medical Corps in health facilities in Walikale, Kibua and Itebero health zones.
In Karete village, Gisele, who received a clean delivery kit, says “I am happy to receive this clean delivery kit provided by International Medical Corps. I will use it when I will give birth. My baby and I will be healthy and safe. I was wondering who would care for me, I was wondering what I should use when I will give birth. My husband and I are from Masisi and we have no means of paying for essential needs”
To further address barriers to accessing quality reproductive health care, International Medical Corps has put in place a referral system for emergency obstetrics cases in the 30 areas in Walikale, Kibua, Walikale and Itebero health zones. With International Medical Corps’ support, every month approximately 80 pregnant women benefit from free transportation to hospitals and referral health centers along with free obstetric care upon arrival.
“I was referred for complications during delivery in my village Malembe, almost at night. I was transported to Karete reference health center and received free and appropriate medical care. Thanks so much to International Medical Corps and health providers of Karete. I can’t believe my baby and I are safe and are not charged anything for all the attention given in this health center. Thank you so much,” said Yvonne from Malembe.
Thanks to the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors, International Medical Corps is able to continue meeting the needs of mothers and soon-to-be mothers in Eastern DRC. This lifesaving support is critically needed in the region and will have a lasting impact for generations to come.
Behavior change communication is a major focus of International Medical Corps’ work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Deep-rooted community change is still required to prevent, address and overcome gender-based violence and International Medical Corps is making progress towards initiating that change. The following is just one example of these efforts.
“My name is Claude , I am internally displaced and living in Mugunga camp since November 2012. I’ve been married to my wife for 17 years and we have four children. I used to beat my wife for any reason, like when she refused to have sex with me or cooked dinner too late. I thought it was the main way to enforce my power as head of the family. I did not care about how my wife feels and never took her view into consideration. I did not know that I was a perpetrator of sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV) until I joined a Men’s Discussion Group initiated by the Behavior Change Communication project in April 2014 in our camp. I realized that I was perpetrating SGBV gradually. I participated in discussions. During the whole process of 16 weeks, I learned the meaning of violence against women, who is a real man, the consequence of violence on me, my family and the community. I also learned how the positive behavior of a man benefits himself, his wife, his children and the whole community. This knowledge motivated me to change my behavior toward my wife and my children, and I started promoting dialogue in my home and seeing its benefits. I understood how my wife was suffering deeply because of my behavior. After 16 weeks I decided to maintain my new behavior, given the harmony in our household, the happiness of my wife and my children. I keep managing my anger and using dialogue as a way of avoiding any kind of violence against my family. I also keep a positive attitude toward the women in our camp. This really helps me because my wife is now running her own business and makes her own decisions with her money. My children are allowed to remain in school since I am now willing to pay their school fees. In March 2015, we were asked to elect a Chairman for Mugunga camp community. I was surprised to be encouraged by my neighborhood and many people in the camp to stand as a candidate. I accepted and was elected as Chairman. This became possible because of my new attitude towards my family, and the entire community has noticed. My wife is sometimes asked by her friends to share the secret that contributed to my behavior change. I really thank International Medical Corps for this approach that brought peace in my household and helped me to become who I am today. I now understand the benefit of behavior change.”
With the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors, International Medical Corps is able to institute such initiatives and will be able to continue to implement programs that help people like Claude and his family. Not only does this work positively impact individuals and their families but it also leads to lasting change for entire communities.