Nov 12, 2020

Counting Down to the End of an Ebola Outbreak

Our team delivers essential supplies in the DRC
Our team delivers essential supplies in the DRC

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been plagued with a near-continuous series of Ebola outbreaks since May 2018. The current outbreak in Equateur province, the 11th in the country since 1796, has progressively subsided over the past five weeks. With no new confirmed cases reported, the DRC is nearing the end of the 42-day countdown until the outbreak can be declared over and the country is once again Ebola-free.

Between June 1 and September 28, 13 health zones in Equateur province reported a total of 130 confirmed cases, including 55 deaths and 75 recoveries. At 42% mortality, the Ebola mortality rate in this outbreak has been lower than during the tenth Ebola outbreak in the northeast of the DRC, which recorded a mortality rate of 67%. Mortality rates in other Ebola outbreaks have been as high as 90%. Advances in vaccinations and treatments for Ebola have helped reduce the mortality rate. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 40,000 people have been vaccinated during this current outbreak.

Throughout the outbreak in Equateur, International Medical Corps has been working alongside the Ministry of Health to isolate and manage 938 suspect patients—29 of whom were confirmed—at two Ebola Treatment Centers, in Wangata and Bikoro health zones. These health zones registered the highest number of confirmed cases. A third treatment center in the town of Buburu, in the Bomongo health zone, aims to reduce the risk of the disease spreading to the neighboring Republic of the Congo.

In addition to managing the three Ebola treatment centers, our team has provided personal protective equipment and basic water, sanitation and hygiene supplies, and helped to:

  • reinforce the ability of local healthcare providers to rapidly identify and isolate suspected cases while safely managing those confirmed; and,
  • reinforce infection prevention and control measures at 20 health facilities in the affected health zones and improve the management of medical waste.

If no new cases are confirmed, November 18 will mark the end of the outbreak and the beginning of a 90-day period of heightened surveillance. Community-based surveillance, maintaining high infection prevention and control measures at health facilities and facilitating access to primary healthcare and Ebola survivor-care programs, will be essential to these efforts. According to Dr. Rigo, International Medical Corps’ Country Director in the DRC, “The risk is still very high. We remain on watch.”

With the continued support from the GlobalGiving community and other donors, International Medical Corps is hopeful that the 11th Ebola outbreak in the DRC will soon be at an end.

Our Ebola Treatment Center in Bikoro
Our Ebola Treatment Center in Bikoro
Oct 29, 2020

Final Report: Hurricane Dorian Emergency Response

Our team providing care in High Rock, Grand Bahama
Our team providing care in High Rock, Grand Bahama

This will be our final update as International Medical Corps’ emergency response to Hurricane Dorian draws to a close.

To continue supporting International Medical Corps, 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 Sunday, September 1, 2019, Hurricane Dorian made landfall as a Category 5 storm – the strongest hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas with winds of 185 mph, gusts up to 220 mph and storm surges as high as 23 feet. “No one thought it would be this bad,” says Tina, a Grand Bahama resident. She continued, “The weather reporter said a hurricane was coming, but this wasn’t a hurricane. This was a hurricane, tornado and storm surge all at once.” Hurricane Dorian then moved slowly towards the southeastern United States, battering the coast of North Carolina as a Category 1 storm, leaving flooding and devastation across the Outer Banks. The island of Ocracoke was submerged under seven feet of water.

International Medical Corps responded immediately. In the Bahamas, within 72 hours of Hurricane Dorian, International Medical Corps deployed and set up a temporary emergency medical health facility in High Rock – one of the most devasted areas across the island of Grand Bahama. A Grand Bahama Health Services administrator reported that it was a great relief in the days following Dorian knowing that, “International Medical Corps was handling the needs in the eastern part of the island.”

Over the last 14 months, International Medical Corps:

  • provided more than 2,200 health consultations;
  • surged response capacity at Grand Bahama’s Rand Memorial Hospital – the only hospital-level facility on the island;
  • delivered 15,200 lbs. of medications and equipment;
  • provided access to clean water for 75 people a day;
  • provided some 1,000 people with mental health and psychosocial support services; and,
  • raised awareness of 11,281 people on self-care; and more.

As the people of the Bahamas continued to face challenges because of the damage sustained by several health facilities on Grand Bahama, International Medical Corps provided two state-of-the-art deployable facilities to the Grand Bahama Health Services to support continued needs; a “Hospitainer” and “BB Pod.”

The Hospitainer is a 20-foot mobile medical clinic with its own power and water filtration systems that can travel directly to the communities most impacted by the crippled health system in eastern Grand Bahama.

The BB Pod is a re-purposed shipping container that is weatherproof and designed to withstand hurricane-strength winds when properly anchored. The BB Pod accommodates one patient at a time and is located across from the damaged High Rock clinic. It will remain there indefinitely, as the clinic will take years to rebuild.

In North Carolina, our team provided assistance to Ocracoke Health Center, the only health center on Ocracoke Island, which sustained substantial damage as a result of Hurricane Dorian. International Medical Corps helped enable flooring, electrical, drywall, storage fixture, lighting, office equipment and other building repairs to ensure residents could get quality medical, dental and mental health care.

When the local healthcare workers reported an increase in adolescents and their caregivers seeking mental health services after Hurricane Dorian at both the Ocracoke Health Center and its sister site, Engelhard Health Facility, International Medical Corps provided additional support enabling the health centers to procure two telepsychiatry units; this is critical today as COVID-19 limits in-person care. Across these efforts, our teams supported some 6,900 people in North Carolina.

International Medical Corps’ approach, “was remarkable. They always asked, ‘how can we assist,’ ‘what do you need,’ ‘we will do our best to assist,’ and that they did,” says Stacie of the Grand Bahama Health Services. Across our Hurricane Dorian response, in both the Bahamas and North Carolina, our teams supported local health facilities so they could build back stronger.

With the generosity of the GlobalGiving community and other donors, International Medical Corps reached nearly 32,000 men, women and children impacted by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas and North Carolina. Thank you.

The Hospitainer can travel to communities in need
The Hospitainer can travel to communities in need
Oct 1, 2020

Emerging Telehealth Needs in Puerto Rico

A provider uses a tablet for health education
A provider uses a tablet for health education

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico with a deadly force and crippled infrastructure. While it took nearly a full year to restore power to all parts of the island, residents in the rural areas continue to have challenges accessing vital services. Puerto Rico’s mountainous terrain can make traveling long distances difficult. As the island sought to recover economically and rebuild stronger, telehealth emerged as a tool for improving healthcare delivery in these rural areas and for improving the integration and digitization of health information.

So far in 2020, Puerto Rico has been navigating earthquakes, the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing for what is predicted to be yet another strong hurricane season.

Telehealth has been a key innovation to control the transmission of COVID-19 and reduce barriers to health during all of these concurrent disasters.

Hospital Perea in Mayaguez is a small facility with 118 beds that serves the historic town center of the third most populous municipality in Puerto Rico. Mayaguez was one of the first municipalities to see COVID-19 cases.

Marisol, Head Nurse at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Hospital Perea, used her personal cellphone to help isolated COVID-19 patients video chat with their families and discuss patient care plans with their close family members. However, as the hospital increased its infection prevention and control measures and the danger of COVID-19 grew, she was no longer able to bring her phone in and out of rooms with infected patients. Other staff members were struggling with similar concerns, like the hospital social worker who had also been contacting families through the video capabilities on her phone.

After hearing Marisol’s concerns, International Medical Corps provided 20 tablets to Hospital Perea to help improve infection prevention and control measures. Because dedicated tablets remain in the hospital’s ICU where they are used by healthcare professionals in personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not being brought into the homes of healthy hospital staff members, there is a reduced risk of spreading the virus.

The tablets have increased Hospital Perea’s telehealth capacity not only for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but for future emergencies. The hospital uses the tablets across various departments to:

  • connect isolated patients with their friends and families
  • enhance the hospital’s health information technology
  • provide health guidance to patients
  • train staff on donning and doffing PPE, and more.

The ICU received five tablets which are used daily with patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or other serious conditions. Because the ICU does not allow any outside visitors, these tablets are the primary link patients have with their families. Marisol observed that when the patients are communicating with their families, their stress levels reduce substantially. She can visibly see improvement on heart and blood pressure monitors during these conversations.

With the support of the GlobalGiving community, International Medical Corps continues to help build capacity and resiliency across Puerto Rico.

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