Blandine Butundi, 18 years old and expecting, was suffering from a life-threatening pregnancy complication.
“My first three months of pregnancy were the heaviest weight I carried since I was born …. the midwife of our Mundindi Health Clinic advised me to consult a doctor in Walikale [the regional capital]. I felt very heavy, yet I was only three months along.
One day I felt dizzy and collapsed at the house door. I was rushed to Walikale General Hospital on a motorbike, not knowing which world I was in. My heart was beating so fast and I felt very thirsty. I was sweating heavily. In the consultation room the midwife just said: ‘You are a lucky lady, you met the specialist in women’s care.’ It was Dr. Kennedy [head of obstetric surgery].
I was given an injection, and the only thing I remembered was the doctor telling me: ‘Something is wrong Blandine, we have to remove whatever is inside your stomach before serious damages occur.’ The rest of the story I was told by my mother.”
Blandine had suffered a miscarriage, and she needed surgery or would face infection and possible death. Thanks to the intervention of Dr. Kennedy Musavuli, she will soon be able to return home in good health. Dr. Kennedy, who received training in emergency obstetrical care and fistula care from International Medical Corps, was able to diagnose the miscarriage and conduct the necessary surgical procedure that saved Blandine’s life.
“The training we received with the support of International Medical Corps shaped our knowledge and experience much more,” said Dr. Kennedy. “Personally, I am so thankful to International Medical Corps for health support in many ways.”
Blandine is also thankful for the support of the skilled surgeons, and expects to return home from the hospital in the upcoming days.
“I have nothing to give to this doctor,” she notes. ”He is such a blessing to the Walikale people, a person who does things with his heart. If he was not there… I was already dead, my mother said. Now I am feeling like a normal person and I hope soon I will get back to my house.”
As part of its safe motherhood initiative, International Medical Corps trained surgical staff from the general hospitals at Walikale and Chambucha,located in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in emergency obstetric surgery to address health issues such as Blandine’s.
In Blandine’s home territory of Walikale, International Medical Corps also recently organized trainings for frontline healthcare workers, such as the midwife in Mundindi who referred Blandine to a doctor, to recognize danger signs during pregnancy, ultimately benefiting over 33,000 women in the area.
International Medical Corps in Libya:
Following the outbreak of conflict in February 2011, International Medical Corps immediately deployed teams in Libya to provide emergency medical services, train local health workers and deliver vital medicines and supplies.
International Medical Corps remained in Libya as the conflict ended, shifting initiatives from emergency services to longer-term projects aimed at supporting efforts to eliminate major gaps in health care and restore the necessary infrastructure. To do this, International Medical Corps is working with the Libyan health sector to address the primary health, mental health and rehabilitation needs of a country emerging from war.
In addition to the physical wounds of war, many Libyans are also facing long-term psychological distress related to the conflict in a region plagued by a cultural stigma towards mental health needs. To address this stigma and the lack of access to mental health services, International Medical Corps is training local health workers throughout Libya in Psychological First Aid. Mental health services have also been integrated into all of International Medical Corps’ programs delivering primary health care.
Attitudes Towards People with Mental Illness:
In Libya, as in much of the Middle East, disabled people are often marginalized and discriminated against. Within existing rehabilitative care services, there is a lack of psychosocial support and psychological counseling services. The majority of the rehabilitation centers in Libya lack social workers and psychologists trained specifically in methods to provide psychosocial support and psychological counseling to persons with disabilities and their families. There continue to be major challenges, but International Medical Corps is working with local partners to advocate rights for the disabled, including the right to education, the right to employment, and the right to take part in everyday activities. Our work aims to increase the quality of life for people living with disabilities in Libya.
In Misurata, International Medical Corps has been working to reduce the stigma associated with disability in conjunction with physical rehabilitation services and psychosocial support. Since our initiative at the Al Tadamoon Centre, the psychosocial department dealing with psychological affairs has been revitalized and is now active. The program has formed a self-help support group for women, provided literacy classes for women with disabilities, and has created a photographic exhibition where women, working together, were empowered through learning camera skills and taking photos to illustrate their theme “dreams and challenges”. The exhibition allowed them to show and explore their daily experiences, hopes and dreams. They also developed their own newsletter and have led training sessions for staff members about disability issues. Mr. Meshbah Mansoor, a father of three participants in the program said:
“There wasn’t much for my daughters to do. They were just staying at home, bored and with little meaning in life. I am grateful for this project and impressed by the way my daughters have been treated by the staff in the project. They have a feeling of being community members deserving respect and opportunities like everyone else now.”
International Medical Corps’ work in Libya continues in conjunction with both the Government of Libya, and Disabled Peoples Organization to change attitudes towards people with disabilities. Prior to International Medical Corps' involvement in the rehabilitation centers in Misrata, initial assessments showed a lack of psychosocial activities, documentation systems, an internal and external referral network, and staff knowledge of disability issues.
However, a recent re-assessment has shown improvements in these areas, especially for group activities, referral networks, and change in staff knowledge and attitudes towards persons with disabilities; much of this shift is a direct result of trainings and on-the-job activity mentoring by International Medical Corps.
International Medical Corps continues to work with those affected by both physical and mental disabilities, many as a result of the war, by providing a holistic approach to rehabilitating vulnerable people and raising awareness of the disabled population in Libya.
Anthonio, a 57-year-old man, lives in Tambura County, South Sudan, with twelve family members in one home. Five of those twelve are children, and the family farms to support themselves. Money is still tight, and he often takes odd jobs to earn a little extra money.
Life in the region is not easy. Malaria, acute diarrhea, and intestinal parasites are all common in Tambura, especially during the rainy season. The weather takes a toll on the community – last year, a storm destroyed the nearby health center, the Mabia Primary Health Clinic Clinic. Anthonio joined his community in working out a solution – they constructed a temporary hut where health care workers could still see patients, but the clinic had little resources to treat the ill and injured that came to them. The South Sudan Ministry of Health did initially supply some drugs for the makeshift clinic, but the shipments were sporadic and soon there were no drugs to provide to the patients.
Given the distance to the next nearest health facility in the town of Tambura, and on the stretch of badly maintained roads, Anthonio’s family and community had no access to healthcare to treat the diseases that run rife through much of South Sudan.
This is where International Medical Corps stepped in – our South Sudan team assessed the clinic’s damage and immediately got to work before the next rainy season came around. The clinic was rebuilt and furbished with desperately needed equipment such as a solar-powered cold-chain refrigerator. Without this refrigerator, the clinic would not have a way to store lifesaving vaccines.
Additionally, International Medical Corps subsidized treatments at Mabia Clinic, ensuring the community could access health care without concern to cost. Finally, vulnerable families like Anthonio’s were able to access treatment. When his son was ill with a diarrheal disease, he brought him to the clinic for immediate care and medication. His other children also come for check-ups, too. “My own situation has improved,” he says, “now that all the children in Mabia are able to get vaccines.”
Much of the health system in South Sudan is overloaded and understaffed, lacking in trained personnel and supplies. International Medical Corps works in several regions of South Sudan, providing primary health care, HIV/AIDs prevention and treatment, children’s and women’s health, and reproductive health services. International Medical Corps is building capacity through the support and expansion of health centers as well as through training community health workers and providing basic health education for the general populace.
Your support relieves suffering and saves lives in South Sudan through initiatives like the rehabilitation and support of Mabia Clinic. Your donations rebuild clinics, train midwives, purchase vaccines and educate communities. We thank you for your generosity– because of you, we are able to care for families like Anthonio’s in the world’s most vulnerable, difficult-to-reach places.