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 6, 2016

Rebuilding Lives through Psychological Support for Refugees

A woman stands outside her shelter in a camp
A woman stands outside her shelter in a camp

The children panic every time they hear an airplane or thunderclap. “They think they are going to be bombed,” their mother, Hana, explained. “Two bombs fell over our house. My small daughter was hurt by shrapnel.” Like nearly five million others, Hana and her family lost everything when they fled Syria’s brutal civil war. They crossed the Aegean Sea in a dinghy in the middle of the night, hoping to be reunited with Hana’s husband, who is receiving medical treatment in Germany. When the borders closed in March, Hana and her young children were stuck in Greece, without options and with little information or hope. Today, they live in an abandoned tobacco factory along with some 160 other people, mostly Syrian, their shelters divided by grey wool blankets strung up by a rope.

In some of the camps, families are allotted small tents, in others, row after row of ventilated container units line a barren gravel lot. While the structures vary from camp to camp, the people stranded in these camps have a few things in common, including a shared history of trauma. According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are some 59,000 refugees and migrants currently living in Greece, mostly in camps like Hana’s. Women and children make up around 59% of those living in limbo.

Dina Prior, International Medical Corps’ Country Director in Greece notes, “It’s critical that we care for their emotional and psychological needs, in addition to basic services, like clean water.” Psychosocial support is one of the key components of our response. Our teams are working to build the capacity of local psychosocial support staff, providing psychological first aid training. This training equips first responders to interact with the men, women, and children who have experienced stressful events. To support children’s mental health and well-being, we host programs that teach children valuable skills, including coping mechanisms and safe hygiene practices that empower children to play influential roles in their communities.

We are just getting started, and stories like Hana’s remind us how critical the need for psychological support is. Hasan, a refugee from Aleppo, Syria, described what he and so many refugees are experiencing: “I just want to sleep, but my mind won’t let me.” He added, “I am tired psychologically now. Every day there is a problem here. And then I remember Syria—and I am haunted by the ghosts.”

We want to thank the GlobalGiving community and other donors for supporting our work and helping refugees and migrants in Greece rebuild their lives.

Children wear shirts that teach them hygiene tips
Children wear shirts that teach them hygiene tips
Teaching life-skills to boys and girls in the camp
Teaching life-skills to boys and girls in the camp
Sep 2, 2016

A Hope for the Future in the Middle of Chaos: The Story of Amelia and Mujwock

Amelia and Mujwock after a healthy check-up
Amelia and Mujwock after a healthy check-up

It was an early February morning when Amelia started to feel labor pains. “I just kept thinking about having a normal delivery,” she said later. “My real worry was that people would continue fighting.” The night before, violence had broken out at the UN refugee camp in Malakal, South Sudan where Amelia and her family have lived for two and a half years. Amelia, along with her husband and children, rushed out of the camp, spending the night outside as gunfire crackled nearby. A few days before, Amelia would have delivered her baby in International Medical Corps’ clinic, but now, even the doctors that worked there couldn’t access the clinic. Dr. Jean Paul Umuringi, our Medical Coordinator in Malakal, explained, “We had to relocate to a safer place, but when we found one, all that was there was a container. We did the only thing we could do: we improvised and put a delivery bed in the container.”

During the two days of extreme violence, Dr. Umuringi and his colleague, Dr. Tekeselassie Gebreyohanne, safely delivered four babies in the container outside of the Malakal Camp. Dr. Gebreyohanne recalled, “It’s difficult…very hard to take in that people outside were dying and inside we were helping people give birth.” After the violence subsided and our team returned to the camp, they found the clinic had been demolished in the violence. But they already knew that life goes on, even in the midst of destruction, and we set to work rebuilding and restocking the clinic. Today, the facility offers a variety of health services to the 33,000 people still living in the Malakal camp, including maternal and child care, primary health care, mental health support, and surgical procedures.

In the face of fear and uncertainty, all mothers hope for the best for their babies. Amelia delivered a healthy baby girl and name her Mujwock, which means “Gift from God” in their local Shilluk language, a nod to the miracle of her birth in the midst of violence. Mujwock is now a six month-old baby with bright, round eyes and chubby cheeks. Amelia brings her to our clinic in Malakal regularly for immunizations and check-ups to make sure she gets a healthy start to life. When asked what she wants for her children’s loves, she replies: “I want them to grown in peace.”

We want to thank the GlobalGiving community and other donors for supporting our work and making a difference in the lives of South Sudan’s mothers, children, and their families.

A clinical health worker helps a mother and child
A clinical health worker helps a mother and child
A mother and child visit the clinic in Malakal
A mother and child visit the clinic in Malakal
Sep 1, 2016

Clean Water and Healthier Communities

Anjuta and Aashika wash their hands
Anjuta and Aashika wash their hands

Aashika and her best friend Anjuta attend school with some 300 other students, tucked into the hillside of rural Dhading region of Nepal, a few hour’s walk from the nearest town. They seem just like any other six year-old friends anywhere in the world, clasping hands wherever they go. Although they are still very young, the little girls have already experienced one of the worst natural disasters to ever strike their country. After the 2015 earthquake, their water supply was contaminated, and the nearest community with clean water was inaccessible due to landslides and damaged roads. Without clean water to drink or bathe with, Aashika and Anjuta could suffer from dehydration or risk disease and infection caused by contaminated water.

Dhading is a beautiful region of Nepal, which comes alive with lush greenery during the monsoon season, when drenching showers saturate the countryside and fill the area’s streams and rivers. But even though the land is saturated, with the devastation from the earthquake, the people of Dhading lack much of what they need for safe drinking water, including water access points, piping and reservoir tanks, and the knowledge of water management necessary to provide reliable, clean water year-round. Areas of Dhading were not alone – some 1.1 million people in Nepal were left without long-term access to protecting water sources.

With help from local partners, International Medical Corps has brought new water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities and associated learning programs to communities and local schools. For example, in Aashika and Anjuta’s community, our teams identified a local, untapped spring and built intake and filter systems, plus a reservoir storage tank capable of holding up to 6,500 liters of water. This new source now provides a direct supply of clean water to over 30 households and nearly 200 people.  

Most popular with Aashika, Anjuta, and their classmates at their school in Muralibhanjyang area is the new hand-washing station, which conveniently stands 27 inches high, a height that offers easy access for all students. “The new hand-washing place is better than the old one,” Aashika said as she reaches for the soap. Anjuta, humming a tune she learned at school as she washes her hands, explains, “We always use this song to help us remember all six steps,” referring to one of several child-friendly tools used to instill lifelong habits of proper hygiene practices in students.

In addition to providing hand-washing stations and lessons on their use, International Medical Corps is promoting a wider cleanliness and proper water-use campaign, in which student clubs take the lead in creating a hygienically clean, environmentally minded school. Students are learning to manage physical waste by segregating it into bio- and non-biodegradable bins. They are also learning how to manage waste water, using it to care for plants grown in the school’s garden. The produce is then sold to local communities. Our teams are installing new latrines to replace the existing dilapidated, unsanitary facilities, while student clubs help set—and then manage—latrine cleaning schedules and classroom cleanup days.

International Medical Corps’ school program is not just about clean hands, it is about a clean environment and lifestyle. The principal of the school has been pleasantly surprised by the change in student attitudes and the eagerness with which they have embraced their new responsibilities. “The students themselves have taken ownership,” he says. “They’ve become incredibly concerned about hygiene and water use. We have five and six year-olds immediately informing their teachers when soap runs out, and 10 and 12 year-olds eager to arrange cleaning duties. The level of self-management they’ve shown is impressive.”

The Dhading region is home to just a handful of the over 100,000 people, like Aashika and Anjuta, who benefit from similar International Medical Corps water, sanitation, and hygiene programs in Nepal. We thank the GlobalGiving community and other donors for their critical support to help the people of Nepal on their journey from relief to self-reliance.  

An older student helps her younger classmate
An older student helps her younger classmate
 
   

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