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.
Sep 9, 2014

Building Resilience through Advanced Training to AAR Japan

Kenji Aoshima from Tokio Marine assigning tasks
Kenji Aoshima from Tokio Marine assigning tasks

Background: In the fall of 2013, International Medical Corps and its corporate partners (Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Co., Ltd.) conducted a three-part workshop series on Business Continuity Planning (BCP) to help local Japanese non-government organizations (NGOs) create solutions to risk-related challenges and better prepare for future emergency response and recovery efforts. Due to popular demand, International Medical Corps conducted another similar workshop series from February – May of 2014.

During several follow-up conversations with organizations that participated in previous BCP planning workshops, International Medical Corps learned that many were still facing difficulties getting all of their staff members to gain an understanding of what their BCP is, and the importance of preparing for emergency situations at the headquarters level.

Advanced BCP Training: To assist the capacity-building efforts of these organizations, International Medical Corps is offering advanced BCP training for willing organizations. On August 5, 2014, AAR Japan was the first organization to accept the opportunity to have International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine facilitate a private tabletop exercise to give AAR Japan’s management staff a taste of what it would be like for them react in an emergency situation. 

In total, 17 staff members from AAR Japan, including the director-general and senior management staff members, participated in the two-hour simulation exercise. The participants were divided by their work departments (i.e. administration, communications, and operations), and the disaster scenario was set as follows:

An earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale hits Tokyo at 10:30AM, with 70% of the Greater Tokyo Area experiencing a quake of 6.0 or stronger. Buildings are damaged and fires ensue in multiple neighborhoods. Everyone in the AAR Japan building evacuates to a nearby public park... 2 hours later, it is confirmed that the AAR Japan building is safe to re-enter.

The simulation exercise was divided into two parts: (1) the initial response (between 12:30 – 2pm, approximately two hours after the earthquake); and (2) restoration of operations.

Part 2 of the exercise was further divided into Phase I and Phase II: Phase I started at 2pm, three and a half hours after the earthquake, running until the end of day one; and Phase II covered the day after the disaster:

Phase 1 (2pm): Power outages continue, and office desktop PCs are unusable. Internet connectivity to laptop PCs and cell phones is minimal and the server cannot be accessed. AAR had originally been planning to send money to its overseas operations but they now cannot wire money via net-banking because they cannot use the internet. Calls to the bank are not going through and it is unclear whether the banks are operating.

Phase 2 (the day after the disaster): Train and subway systems have been shut down in many parts of the Tokyo Area; traffic congestion continues. Due to transportation difficulties, as well as, damage to homes and/or affected family members some AAR staff are unable to come in to work. Around 60% of the staff are available, either because they stayed in the office overnight or are able to walk to work the next day. Scheduled power outages have also started, and Laptop PCs and mobile phones will soon run out of their batteries and cannot be recharged. Donors and members have been trying to reach the office with offers of donations but have largely been unsuccessful. Staff members who had stayed overnight are showing signs of exhaustion.

The workshop facilitator gave each group timed tasks in accordance to the specific timelines (for example, during the initial response, each group had 20 minutes to brainstorm and come up with their department’s list of priority tasks that need to be completed within the first two hours of the disaster). During the simulation of the initial response, AAR Japan received regular situational updates by monitoring reports on a large TV screen regarding traffic conditions, public transportation conditions, fires, power outages, etc. Each group was then responsible to keep up with the updates while also working on their assigned tasks. The Director-General oversaw all activities at a distance and received reports from each group regarding updates and priority work areas. 

Results: Through this fast-paced exercise, many issues that had yet to be resolved with AAR Japan came to light, including:

  • What is the minimum number of staff needed?
  • Who has to stay behind in the office and who can go home?
  • How much cash do we need to have on hand to meet our immediate needs for at least a few days?
  • Where will we work if the office becomes unusable?

Overall, the feedback from the participants was very positive, including the following comments:

  • “It was an extremely worthwhile exercise that made me think about disaster response in a practical manner.”
  • “The simulation exercise covered a lot of material in a very short time frame.”
  • “I realized how important prior preparation is for disaster response.”
  • “Next time we should expand the simulation to include more staff members.”

Masayuki Okada, Administrative Officer and the focal point for this BCP exercise, summed up his impressions by saying, “I think this exercise helped us all to realize how much work we still have to do to prepare ourselves for a disaster. We always meant to, but never got around to stockpiling emergency supplies such as food, water, and disposable toilets for our staff. If we lose electricity, most if not all of our work will grind to a halt, so we seriously need to consider investing in a generator.”

Mr. Okada continued, “Other issues include not having an alternative workspace if our office ever became damaged, and how our BCP doesn’t specify which staff member is in charge of certain roles in case of an emergency. This exercise allowed us to experience a little bit of the chaos a disaster causes, and has helped management-level staff to have a better appreciation of the urgency of these issues. Now that we all have this shared sense of urgency, this is the ideal time to push forward with strengthening our level of preparedness. Additionally, we will be sharing the highlights of this exercise with other staff at our annual ‘Joint Conference for Internationally-Posted Staff & HQ Staff,’ which will be held at the end of this month. We truly appreciate the opportunity International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine has given us, and we will be sure not to waste the lessons we learned through this exercise.”

Teams monitoring news feeds
Teams monitoring news feeds
AAR staff reporting to their Director-General
AAR staff reporting to their Director-General
Sep 9, 2014

Training Midwives; Saving the Lives of Mothers and Newborns in Walikale

Midwife and patients at Walikale General Hospital
Midwife and patients at Walikale General Hospital

Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is marked by the presence of numerous armed groups, particularly in North and South Kivu, who fight for control of the country’s vast natural resources (including gold, diamonds and rare earth minerals), terrorizing civilians and causing millions to suffer from ongoing conflict and displacement. The fighting causes massive population movement from areas where there is active fighting to areas of relative calm. Besides the risk of losing their lives, internally displaced persons (IDPs) also lose their property, means of livelihood and social support networks as families disperse, rendering them more vulnerable.

International Medical Corps currently supports 68 clinics and hospitals in North and South Kivu, providing medical supplies, training for health workers, and referral and transfer for patients in need of advanced care. In areas with no clinics, International Medical Corps runs mobile medical units to give vulnerable populations access to vital health care services. We also deliver health care in three transit camps for refugees returning to their home villages. In addition to supporting existing health facilities and providing mobile medical services, International Medical Corps works in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and non-governmental organizations to increase the number of well-trained health professionals in DRC, including midwives.

Midwives have been of great support to health centers and community in Walikale, and provide safe delivery and essential newborn care, helping to ensure women are healthy and giving their babies a better opportunity to grow into healthy children and adults. Not only do midwives support mothers from maternity to birth, but they also deliver comprehensive sexual reproductive health services including:  counselling; malaria treatment during pregnancy; and services to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission.

The impact of their work is vital to building healthy communities -- the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Confederation of Midwives assert that midwives can prevent up to 90 percent of maternal deaths where they are authorized to practice their competencies, and play a full role during pregnancy, childbirth and after birth (UNFPA, 2010). Giving birth without professional assistance increases the risk of developing complications such as fistula and infections that could affect either the mother or the child and lead to maternal and infant death. Midwives trained by International Medical Corps possess the skills needed to be their own best “First Responders” – helping women avoid or treat complications and deliver healthy babies.

Anastaticia, whose life was saved by an International Medical Corps-trained midwife in Eastern DRC, explained her potentially life-threatening situation; “I started labor at home, called for help and a friend came to assist. She, however, could not complete the delivery. I had to be rushed to the health center not far from my village for emergency assistance. The midwife at the health center was able to stop the bleeding and save the life of my baby, and I woke up to see my baby next to me. During the process, I was diagnosed as having developed a fistula, and had surgery to repair it 6 months later.  The experience at the health center and the support from the midwives helped save my life and the life of my baby.’’

Sep 9, 2014

Empowering Women in DRC through International Medical Corps' Women in Leadership project

WiLead project participant
WiLead project participant

International Medical Corps’ Women in Leadership (WiLead) project began in August 2012 with the goal of strengthening existing and creating new women leadership roles and promoting an environment that supports and encourages future women leaders in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This project was designed to train women in organizational development and management skills, empowering them to become more effective leaders; increase the understanding of women’s leadership roles in their communities; and teach communities the importance and benefits of establishing women-friendly leadership structures.

The WiLead project partnered with 434 religious, traditional and political leaders (159 of which were women) and challenged them through training sessions, workshops, discussions and debates, to change traditional laws that discriminate against women and girls and create space for women’s participation in leadership positions.  After the program, and with the support of local women’s associations, women experienced tangible gains in their communities: 21 women were nominated in the council of elders in Kalonge; religious leaders offered a piece of land for women to construct a small hut for meetings instead of meeting at the river or farms where they are at risk of attack by armed groups; one women was nominated to the tribal council in both Bukavu and Bunyakiri; and women representatives are now attending security briefing meeting held each week at the Bunyakiri Administration office.

To further nurture future women leaders and educate adolescents on gender equality, International Medical Corps supported the creation of adolescent clubs where mentors worked to develop a positive perception of women and girls in their community. In total, 28 adolescent clubs were created and educated participants through open discussions between boys and girls on gender issues, good citizenship, peaceful coexistence, and positive ambitions. Girls-only sessions helped young women develop positive ambitions and draw on female leaders from their communities as role models. A total of 672 adolescents (332 girls) participated in the adolescent club activities.

Below is a story from a female participant in an International Medical Corps-supported adolescent club:

I am a 16 year old student at Cholobera institute, and I started participating in adolescent club discussions in August, 2014. It was the first time that I participated in a discussion where everyone was expected to express their own point of view. At the beginning, it was difficult for me and all the girls to speak before the boys and give a different opinion, because it is against our culture to disagree with boys in front of other boys. Little by little, the facilitator encouraged us to express ourselves, and I started gaining enough confidence to do so without feeling shame or fear. We continued having discussion sessions, and as we went along, I realized the sessions were helping me recognize my potential as a leader instead of simply helping me express myself in front of others.

Before joining the club, I had no ambitions and lacked knowledge regarding many things. I never knew what rights men and women had, nor did I know that there were special laws that protected children. I was also never taught about hygiene; sexually transmitted infections; the consequences of unwanted pregnancies; or even the menstrual cycle, because these subjects are not taught in school. The mentors at the adolescent club taught me about these legal and health subjects, which empowered me to take ownership of my future and become an active participant in my community. If I had not joined the adolescent club, I may have taken a very different path.   

When I was 14 years old, I thought about dropping out of school to get married just as my older sisters had done. Fortunately, the Women in Leadership project started and I realized that it was not the time to think about marriage, because there were more important things to do. After participating in the program, I decided to get my certificate and then go to university in Bukavu. I started taking my studies more seriously and I became the second best student in my class. My parents noticed a change in my behavior and achievements, and are now giving me the same responsibility as my older brothers. My father wants my sisters to join the adolescent club, and he is encouraging me to avoid relationships with boys so that I can focus on my dreams. When I am done with university, I plan on coming back to shape the future of Kalonge.

I believe that I can truly make a difference in my community, because International Medical Corps already helped us deliver a project rehabilitating water sources in Kalonge. Access to clean water represents one of the biggest needs in Kalonge, and through this project, we were able to show the community that young people had an important role to play in its development while helping resolve a problem that even adults had not been able to solve.

With the support of Kalonge women leaders, our club decided to expand into the neighboring village to continue safe-guarding our leadership ambitions, and to give a similar chance to young women in other communities.”

 
   

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