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.
Jul 16, 2014

Increasing the Resilience of People with Disabilities Through Training and Practice

In the devastating earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011, the mortality rate of people with disabilities (PWDs) was more than double the rate of the general population. This higher-than-average mortality rate has been attributed to the needs of PWDs not being included in existing preparedness plans; physical obstacles at temporary shelters, (e.g. not accessible by wheelchair); lack of opportunities for PWDs to communicate their needs; lack of access to critical information; and a lack of necessary medication/medical equipment to meet PWDs’ needs at available shelters.

To ensure that people with disabilities do not suffer the same challenges in a future disaster, International Medical Corps and AAR Japan are partnering to provide guidance, build capacity, and support local organizations and communities in establishing emergency response standards that meet the needs of all people, especially PWDs. In order to achieve this, people with disabilities must be actively engaged in the earliest preparation and planning stages before a disaster strikes.

From July 23-25, International Medical Corps, AAR Japan and the Kibou no Mori Social Welfare Association will launch a series of activities to improve disaster preparedness for PWDs. International Medical Corps and AAR Japan will conduct a training session for PWDs on basic safety and evacuation procedures in six of Kibou no Mori’s facilities (two per day). Additionally, all participants in the training sessions will receive evacuation kits containing items such as: drinking water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, a hand-crank flashlight/radio/siren, a basic hygiene kit, disposable toilets, an emergency blanket, an inflatable plastic sleeping mattress, and more. This training and the supplies will help people with disabilities be more prepared in advance of another disaster.

On July 26, International Medical Corps, AAR Japan, and local PWD-support facility Iwaki Jiritsu Seikatsu Center will conduct an emergency shelter simulation for PWDs. The simulation will include approximately 70 participants (20 PWDs, 20 certified helpers, 20 non-PWDs, and 10 staff members). The one-day event will take place at Nakoso Junior High School’s gymnasium, which also functioned as an emergency evacuation shelter after the 2011 disaster. During this simulation, PWDs and non-PWDs will work together to identify the obstacles PWDs face at the shelter, depending on their particular disabilities, and develop solutions to overcome challenges and better support PWDs. This will be the very first emergency shelter simulation in Japan to focus on the needs of PWDs.

By supporting local organizations in Japan, and focusing specifically on people with disabilities, International Medical Corps and AAR are building the capacity of Japanese communities to support all residents in the face of a future disaster. With your support, we continue to help Japanese communities build back better.

Jul 10, 2014

International Medical Corps Continues to Fight Cholera in Haiti

Community outreach team member and local resident
Community outreach team member and local resident

International Medical Corps was on the ground in Haiti 22 hours after the devastating January 2010 7.0 earthquake that took over 200,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Tragically, the earthquake was not the only disaster to strike Haiti that year. In late October 2010, cholera broke out in Artibonite, a rural region north of Port-au-Prince.  International Medical Corps was one of the very first organizations to respond, and had medical staff on the ground in Artibonite days before the outbreak was even confirmed to be cholera. International Medical Corps’ teams aggressively rolled out a network of cholera treatment centers (CTCs) and mobile medical units in Haiti’s most remote and affected areas, in order to provide care for more than 39,700 cholera patients. 

Because cholera was a new disease in Haiti, most of the country’s health workers had no experience identifying or treating the disease before the outbreak. International Medical Corps collaborated with the Ministry of Health, engaging, training and employing ministry staff, as well as, local doctors, nurses, and community health workers, in cholera response and treatment techniques. Overall, International Medical Corps trained and mentored more than 1,200 doctors, nurses, and community health workers.  As a result, the network of CTCs were staffed largely by local health professionals and were handed over to the national health system – creating sustainability, building self-reliance and helping to ensure that cholera prevention and treatment would be part of the country’s long-term healthcare infrastructure. 

At the height of the outbreak in the South Department, 14% of cholera cases resulted in death. In response, International Medical Corps provided surge support, capacity building and training for local staff in the area’s two largest treatment centers.  Just one month later, the fatality rate fell to 2.5%, and two months later, it was less than 1%. This success is largely due to the fact that International Medical Corps trained local health professionals to prevent and treat cholera and then mobilized entire communities - from mayor to mom - in the fight against cholera, reaching over 2 million people with cholera education, awareness and prevention messages. 

Since that time, International Medical Corps has continued to build the capacity of local staff and communities to respond to spikes in cholera and prevent cholera from taking hold - including after Hurricane Sandy that wreaked havoc on the country’s fragile infrastructure in October 2012 - and remains one of the few organizations focused on cholera prevention for vulnerable families in the under-resourced northern region of the country.

Over the last year, International Medical Corps responded to an increase in cholera cases that began in June 2013 in the North and North-East Districts. International Medical Corps’ "Cholera Response and Prevention Teams", staffed by local doctors, nurses, and hygiene specialists, visited communities in each district at least once each month, and up to several times a month for the more vulnerable communities. Teams worked directly with health clinics, and spread hygiene and cholera prevention messages to families to thwart the spread of the disease. In total, teams supported 33 ministry facilities; stocked local clinics with rehydration salts, the primary medication used in cholera treatment; provided medication, education, outreach and treatment benefitting 1.5 million people; distributed more than 300,000 water purifying tablets to families; disinfected latrines and households; and distributed additional hygiene items, including soap and detergents. These efforts contributed to a marked decrease in cholera cases; reported cholera cases fell in the first six months of 2014 by 80% in the North Department and 93% in the North-East Department.

International Medical Corps’ cholera treatment and prevention projects have been largely successful, however, cholera is still present in many parts of Haiti. During the hurricane season, when storms can wreak havoc on infrastructure, it remains critical that communities are ready to prepare for increases in cholera cases.  Preparation includes the distribution of chlorination tabs; buckets; and water filters, so that families can ensure that their water is clean. The generous support from Global Giving and other donors continues to help International Medical Corps deliver these critical and effective cholera treatment and prevention programs and bring clean water to communities in rural Haiti.

Delivering medical supplies to health centers
Delivering medical supplies to health centers
Evaluating a cholera patient
Evaluating a cholera patient
Sanitizing a home that experienced a cholera case
Sanitizing a home that experienced a cholera case
Educating locals about the dangers of cholera
Educating locals about the dangers of cholera
Jul 10, 2014

Improving Access to Safe Water Supplies in Beledweyne, Somalia

Children fetching water from a rehabilitated well
Children fetching water from a rehabilitated well

International Medical Corps has been operating in Somalia since 1991, when it became the first American non-governmental organization (NGO) to arrive in the war-torn Somali capital of Mogadishu after the overthrow of President Siad Barre. Throughout the past two decades, International Medical Corps has implemented health; nutrition; livelihoods; and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs in multiple locations of Somalia, implementing programs that build local health care capacity, while serving the immediate health needs of the most vulnerable men, women and children.

In October 2012, heavy rains in south central Somalia caused the region’s main river, the Shebelle, to reach its highest levels in 50 years, resulting in burst banks and unprecedented flooding. Beledweyne, a city with a population of 144,000, was one of the worst-affected areas and suffered severe damage to a wide range of critical public infrastructure and homes, which resulted in the extensive displacement of families.

The floods have had a particularly devastating effect on this community, which was already struggling to recover from the 2011 drought that destroyed their farms, livelihoods, and homes. An estimated 34,602 people displaced by the drought and then the flood currently reside in Beledweyne, and generally depend on shallow wells and boreholes to meet their domestic water needs, most of which were destroyed and/or heavily contaminated by the severe flooding. On average, these people must now travel 3-4 miles by foot to find clean water, as sourcing water from the Shebelle River and shallow wells now exposes them to dangerous, water-related diseases.

Over the last 18 months, International Medical Corps, with support from Global Giving and other donors, implemented a program in Beledweyne to ensure that the most vulnerable, including displaced persons, women and youth, have increased access to safe and reliable water supplies. To achieve this goal, International Medical Corps identified and rehabilitated three water sources; and trained local residents to act as water management committee members to ensure the rehabilitated water sources remain clean while also educating the community about proper water handling, storage and treatment techniques.

In order to deliver this program, International Medical Corps’ team in Beledweyne first conducted an assessment, in collaboration with the local community, to select the three most effective water points for rehabilitation. Selection criteria included:

  • The water source must be communal or owned by a group of households to ensure wide scale access
  • Number of households benefiting from the rehabilitated water source – so that sources with the greatest reach could be rehabilitated
  • Cost effectiveness of the rehabilitation within the context of the community – so that funds may be invested to the greatest benefit; and,
  • Willingness of the water committee to sign an agreement committing to jointly manage the shallow well after rehabilitation, ensuring sustainability of the rehabilitation and continued access to clean water

The three communal water points selected for rehabilitation are located in three different communities in Beledweyne, helping to ensure access to clean water for the greatest number of people. Overall, the rehabilitation of the three wells now provides access to safe water for more than 1,500 households -- approximately 7,900 people!

The next step of the program was to select and train water management committee members to maintain the rehabilitated wells and teach the community proper water handling techniques. After consulting with community leaders, 15 water management committee members were identified from the villages with rehabilitated water sources (5 committee members per rehabilitated well).

Between March 11 and 12, 2014, the committee members took part in a comprehensive training, based on internationally-accepted standards, on water source management. In addition, they completed a one-day training on hygiene promotion together with community leaders selected in collaboration with village elders. The key tasks of these water management committee members includes promotion of safe water and sanitation practices and maintenance of the rehabilitated wells.

In addition to training water management committee members, teams provided a one-day training workshop to the communities surrounding the wells on March 12, 2014. Participants in this workshop included key community leaders from the areas most affected by waterborne diseases in recent years, including Buntaweyn, Kooshin, Hawataako and Hawlwadaag. A total of 21 participants received training on the effects of consuming contaminated water, and how to spread community awareness of the issue and treatment of contaminated water. Other topics covered included the importance of hygiene, for individuals and households, the importance of using safe water to clean and prepare food, and proper waste disposal.

Finally, International Medical Corps, in collaboration with other organizations working in Somalia and the previously trained community leaders, provided training to communities to increase awareness of the importance of protecting water sources. During this one-day community mobilization meeting, International Medical Corps used a hands-on, participatory approach to inspire action and encourage community members to take leading roles in the planning, management, monitoring and evaluation of their water sources.

Through the generous support of Global Giving and other donors, International Medical Corps was able to provide desperately needed clean water to communities affected by the 2011 drought and 2012 flooding in Beledweyne, Somalia benefitting 1,500 households and 7,900 people.  With better access to clean water, families will be exposed to fewer waterborne diseases, improving their overall health. Moving forward, community members now have the skills to ensure that the rehabilitated water points continue to provide clean water for years to come and that hygiene messages and training are spread throughout the communities. Embedding skills in the community lies at the heart of International Medical Corps’ mission: building self-reliance.

Rehabilitating the Domey well
Rehabilitating the Domey well
Rehabilitating the Donsbugle well
Rehabilitating the Donsbugle well
Completed Donsbugle well
Completed Donsbugle well
Community member learning water management
Community member learning water management
Group water management training session
Group water management training session
 
   

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