Cholera, an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water with the bacteria that causes it, can kill within hours if left untreated. However, with proper care the mortality rate is under 1%. The deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti is still on the rise, with an estimated 50,000 new cases this past year, up from the approximate 28,000 in 2014. More than 8,800 people have died from cholera and more than 736,000 Haitians have been infected since the outbreak began in 2010, months after the devastating earthquake.
International Medical Corps is proud to be the only international aid organization operating in the North and Northeast departments nearest Cap-Haitien, where the need for cholera treatment is great. International Medical Corps’ applies a holistic approach to cholera case management, recently training 90 health professionals and providing education for remote affected communities on prevention. When a cholera victim is identified, the teams disinfect his or her home to prevent the spread of cases. International Medical Corps is also advocating for, and repairing and building new cholera beds, which are specifically designed to accommodate the needs of cholera patients. The beds are typically simple to maintain, promoting hygiene and allowing for ease of access to bed pans.
With 33 cases already reported in the first two days of 2016, fighting cholera in Haiti is as critical as ever. Our mobile medical units are working every day to treat patients in cholera treatment units and in communities. As cholera is caused by contaminated water, we are also constantly working to reduce its risk by building sanitary infrastructures, including clean water sources, latrines, showers, foot baths and handwashing stations, as well as by building kitchens with access to clean water in local schools.
With the support of GlobalGiving and other generous donors, International Medical Corps continues its commitment to serve the most vulnerable populations and administer lifesaving treatment for cholera in Haiti.
Sherifo and her family ran for their lives back in 2010, away from the violent conflict in their home country of Somalia. They endured a tedious journey to cross the border into Ethiopia and reside in Bokolmayo refugee camp in the Dolo Ado region. Sherifo remembers seeing many children lose their lives while she was trying to survive in Somalia, not from bombs or guns, but from diarrhea and other common ailments. She didn’t know then that these unnecessary deaths could have been prevented with a very simple solution.
That solution - handwashing with soap or ash . In an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a man-made conflict, hygiene is often overlooked. Poor hygiene practices can easily lead to the spread of illness and disease, such as diarrhea. In fact, globally, one in five child deaths are due to diarrhea. Handwashing is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent such disease. But for such a simple and lifesaving habit, handwashing with soap, or ash when soap is not available, can be difficult to adopt when poor hygiene practices are the norm and there is limited access to materials.
As a result, International Medical Corps has been working to promote improved handwashing and sanitation practices in Bokolmayo refugee camp since 2012. “My awareness on hygiene and sanitation was poor before my arrival to the camp,” says Sherifo . “No hygiene and sanitation interventions were provided in the community in my homeland, Somalia.” Survey results show that since International Medical Corps’ sanitation and hygiene services began in the camp, 90% of the population are now aware of the importance of handwashing practices.
“After I received messages on diarrhea prevention, I understood the importance of washing my hands very well. I always wash my hands at all critical times - after a latrine visit and cleaning the bottom of my children, before cooking, eating and feeding my children,” says Sherifo .
Refugee camps are especially prone to the spread of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) related diseases because many people are living in congested and often unsanitary conditions. Not only does International Medical Corps promote improved hygiene practices in Bokolmayo and many other refugee camps around the world, they also construct safe and improved latrines and provide hygiene supplies such as jerry cans for water collection and soap.
Sherifo now volunteers for International Medical Corps as a WASH committee member and has installed her own tippy tap, a low-tech, hands-free handwashing device used where there is no running water, near her latrine to help her and her family wash their hands regularly. It is critical to have people like Sherifo who understand the importance of handwashing and spread the message to others.
She says, “My family and I are no longer suffering from disease like we faced before; presently, I am promoting handwashing within my community and helping members develop positive hygiene behavior.”
It is with the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors that International Medical Corps is able to equip mothers like Sherifo with the supplies and information needed to survive in very difficult circumstances around the world. Your support is greatly appreciated.
With generous support from GlobalGiving and other donors, International Medical Corps is using behavior change communication (BCC) to prevent, and protect against sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. BCC is an interactive approach which utilizes communication strategically to develop and maintain positive attitudes, practices and norms. In DRC, we have identified messaging that is effective in improving behaviors related to sexual violence in the eastern region of the country. To date, we have reached more than 226,000 men and women using tools such as debates, mobile screen plays, and one-on-one sensitization, to create new attitudes and perceptions around sexual and gender-based violence.
We deliver our programs in close partnership with religious and community leaders, and with government structures such as schools and police services, to combat sexual violence. Espérance’s experience below illustrates the reach and impact of our program.
“Before International Medical Corps’ 16-week peer-to-peer discussion session engaging men to prevent violence against women, my husband did not have any consideration for me. He would beat me if I refused to have sex with him and return from work very late at night, reeking of alcohol. He is a teacher, but I never knew his salary. When I did ask what his salary was, my husband responded claiming I did not have a right to know and my role was cooking food for our two children. Without a space to speak openly about my concerns, I struggled for four years and suffered in silence.
One day the chief of our village spoke to my husband about International Medical Corps’ activities. My husband attended a meeting, and then surprisingly invited me to come along for the second. During this meeting, the facilitator explained the need to engage men in conversation to prevent violence against women. My husband registered for the 16-week discussion session. Within two weeks, my husband began coming home earlier – at first, I thought he was sick. A few weeks later, my husband was bathing our children – I thought he was going to look for a new wife. Then, my husband explained that he is learning positive behaviors in the discussion sessions and trying to change. I was still not convinced.
International Medical Corps’ discussion facilitator explained what my husband was learning and my husband began sharing the subjects discussed each week. Three months after the program began, my husband asked for forgiveness for his bad behavior, promising to be a better husband and father. Then, he showed me his payroll. I was so surprised, I cried. Since that day, our family lives in peace. I am even providing a source of income to my family by selling shoes. I thank International Medical Corps for this miracle in my life and in my household. I recommend this approach be spread everywhere to help other women to regain joy like I did.”
With continued support from GlobalGiving and other generous donors, International Medical Corps is creating lasting change and having a long-term impact, particularly for women in the community, by harnessing positive dialogue and action around women’s rights in the family and society. Many women in the Congo are now participating in decision making; community members are gathering to prevent sexual and gender-based violence; children are reporting sexual harassment and abuse; policemen are refusing bribes; and local radios are broadcasting topics related to such violence.