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.
Feb 5, 2016

Continuing the Fight Against Ebola

Children in Taylor-ta Village
Children in Taylor-ta Village

Nestled in the forests of north-central Liberia, Taylor-ta was a tight-knit village, home to some 1,120 people. It was this very closeness that allowed Ebola to take hold and tear them apart. The virus snuck quietly into Taylor-ta last November when a boy and his father came back from the capital, Monrovia. In a few days, the boy was sick and people from across the village came to help care for him. “When they brought the boy here no one knew about Ebola,” says Lucy Sumo, 48. “Everyone was helping him. But when he died, we got scared…Immediately after his death, those who helped him started getting sick.”

Many of these family friends were brought to the nearest Ebola Treatment Unit, which was run by International Medical Corps roughly 45 minutes away by car. Others never made it that far and died in their homes. In all, 24 people in Taylor-ta fell ill with Ebola. Only eight survived. For a community that describes itself as one family, every death was the loss of a loved one. Every new case sparked fears of who was next. As Ebola spread across Taylor-ta, people who used to share everything were driven further and further apart, their grief and anger at the relentless disease stubbornly and corrosively wedged between them.

Taylor-ta is one of the Ebola-ravaged towns where International Medical Corps is trying to help repair relationships that unraveled during the heartbreak and confusion of the outbreak. In what are called social reconnection groups, people come together to talk about what happened together with psychosocial professionals.

The current fight against Ebola is about more than treating patients and stopping the spread of the disease – it is about investing in people, fostering community recovery, training local healthcare workers in infection prevention and control, and helping rebuild healthcare systems across the region. International Medical Corps is now supporting a “durable zero” across the West Africa region because just as the World Health Organization declared an end to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with Liberia the last country to get the all-clear, two new cases were confirmed in Sierra Leone. We expect that there will be flare-ups in the region for some time to come, which is why continued support for surveillance and response mechanisms is vital.

Psychosocial support is also key. “People are so sad,” says Sarah Diggen, a psychosocial staff member with International Medical Corps in Liberia. “Imagine if you lost all of your loved ones. This can create mental illness like depression.” Moreover, with an estimated 17,000 survivors, many facing not only stigma, but also health complications such as blindness, hearing loss and difficulty swallowing, continued care is critical.

International Medical Corps is extremely grateful for the unwavering support offered by GlobalGiving and other donors as we work to provide a comprehensive response against the deadly disease. Sarah says, “As long as you have life, you have hope.” As part of the global community, we work to not only offer health, but hope to those affected by Ebola in West Africa.

Social Reconnection Group in Taylor-ta Village
Social Reconnection Group in Taylor-ta Village
Triage center in Sierra Leone
Triage center in Sierra Leone
Feb 2, 2016

Making Communities Safer in South Sudan

Lucia - Gender-Based Violence Case Worker
Lucia - Gender-Based Violence Case Worker

Lucia is a case worker with International Medical Corps who helps survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) overcome their trauma and move forward with their lives. Born and raised in Kodok, South Sudan, Lucia first worked as a midwife in Kodok Hospital. When fighting erupted and her town was caught in the middle, Lucia remembers everyone running into the bushes, fearing for their lives. She recalls, “Sometimes we had to stay in the bush the whole night. We were afraid of the shelling targeting Kodok Town.” 

Lucia knew she couldn’t just stand by and watch her people suffer. During breaks in the fighting, she set out to mobilize community members to help take the wounded to the hospital. Amongst the injured, there were also pregnant women in need of care. Using her skills as a trained midwife, Lucia helped women deliver despite the chaos going on all around them. During this time, she also came across GBV survivors. “The fighting caused a lot of confusion. People who didn’t know each other shared the same sleeping spaces, which put women at risk of sexual violence. Women were also at risk because there were no latrines and people had to go far into the bush to take care of basic needs. Many also had to walk long distances alone in search of water and food, usually in the forest, increasing their vulnerability.”

When women and adolescent girls find themselves in remote locations, their safety and security can be threatened. As a result of the training Lucia received from International Medical Corps to become a GBV case worker, she was able to provide psychological first aid - a non-intrusive way of providing psychosocial support in a crisis which teaches: doing no harm; recognizing normal reactions to stress and loss; listening in a supportive way; strengthening positive coping strategies; and using established referral systems to help those needing additional care - and link survivors to immediate medical help. Lucia is very committed to giving a hand to people in need. “I felt very sad to see my community suffering, especially the women and girls,” she says. “I am happy that I was able to provide some assistance. My passion is to help women and girls recover from what they have been through.”

International Medical Corps is providing life-saving health and psychosocial support to survivors of GBV. GBV is a life-threatening, global health and human rights issue, and in crises, the risk of violence is heightened, especially for women and adolescent girls [1]. In response to the ongoing conflict and scarce medical care within South Sudan, International Medical Corps is reaching those in need with primary and reproductive health care, mental health and psychosocial support, and nutrition services. Through our GBV services, we ensure appropriate medical care, including the prevention of HIV infection and case management. This support aims to reach 126,393 internally displaced persons and conflict-affected host community members in the Upper Nile and Jonglei states.

International Medical Corps is also engaging the local community through facilitating the development of community task forces, conducting community dialogues sessions and information campaigns, including the #IEmpowerWomen campaign, to further raise awareness and mobilize the community to not only respond to gender-based violence, but prevent it. In addition to confidential and compassionate care for GBV survivors, International Medical Corps staff provide skills-building sessions for women and girls with workshops in basketry, crocheting, and literacy classes to be together and build female empowerment and mutual support.

Lucia represents the critical support GloblalGiving and other donors can provide in times of crisis. International Medical Corps thanks you for helping make a difference in the lives of women and girls.

#IEmpower Women Campaign
#IEmpower Women Campaign
Jan 28, 2016

Saving Lives on the Frontlines of the Refugee Crisis

Medical care in Greece
Medical care in Greece

Eight months pregnant and traveling alone, Muna boarded a small boat in Turkey that was to take her to an island in Greece she had never heard of before. The trip would be dangerous, she knew, but it would bring her one step closer to her husband, who was already in Germany. “She told me she was terrified when she saw that the boat was being driven by a 14-year-old boy who had no experience and was under threat from the owner,” says Lenio Capsaskis, a member of the medical team provided by International Medical Corps’ local partner, Programs of Development, Social Support, and Medical Cooperation (PRAKSIS). “She said the boat nearly capsized four times before it ended up on a military island called Farmakonisi, and that she was stranded there for three days without food, water or shelter with hundreds of other refugees. Eventually the group was taken here, to Leros, and that’s where we met her.” Muna told the International Medical Corps and PRAKSIS team that she had stopped feeling her baby move a few days earlier and was afraid she might have lost it. After we referred Muna to the proper obstetric care, she was tearful when she learned that both she and her baby were healthy.

Muna’s story illustrates the dangerous journey so many refugee women face. By the end of 2015, more than 1 million refugees and migrants had crossed the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe and more than 3,700 people lost their lives or went missing during the journey. With the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors, International Medical Corps remains on the frontlines of this crisis, prioritizing lifesaving care as the refugee and migrant flow continues in 2016.

In Greece, International Medical Corps and PRAKSIS are providing medical, psychosocial, and hygiene and sanitation assistance to newly arriving refugees and migrants on the Greek islands of Leros, Kos and Samos. Two mobile teams have conducted medical consultations on these islands for 2,227 patients, who also meet with a social worker for psychosocial support and receive referrals for additional assistance. To thwart the spread of disease, International Medical Corps and PRAKSIS have distributed 454 personal hygiene kits, which include towels, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and bandages for treatment of wounds and injuries.

As refugees transit through Serbia by train headed for countries further north, International Medical Corps and local partner International Aid Network (IAN) are providing services seven days a week to those in need at the railway station in Sid, near Serbia’s border with Croatia. As of January 10, International Medical Corps and IAN had provided medical care for 4,683 patients, noting that acute respiratory infections were the most common illness. International Medical Corps and IAN have also provided 2,224 psychosocial support consultations, to impart positive coping strategies and provide information about stress reactions. Teams are continuously linking refugees to other available assistance, for example, with Serbian asylum procedures, and food and relief supplies as they continue their journey.

When reflecting on the crisis, Sanja, a member of International Medical Corps’ emergency team in Serbia recalls, “What you learn is that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, all displaced people suffer the pain of leaving what they love behind and even use the same phrases to describe what they’ve lost, what they need, what they hope for,” she says. “Whether you’re a Sudanese refugee fleeing to Uganda or a Syrian refugee fleeing through Serbia, you end up with a small bag in your hand and all you have from home is your memories.”

International Medical Corps thanks GlobalGiving and other donors for their critical support as we continue to respond to this refugee crisis.

Muna outside of a mobile medical unit
Muna outside of a mobile medical unit
Sanja speaking with three young men
Sanja speaking with three young men
 
   

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