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.
Aug 4, 2014

Responding to Cyclone Phailin - Mission Complete!

International Medical Corps Mobile Medical Unit
International Medical Corps Mobile Medical Unit

Background: International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team arrived in India within 24 hours following the landfall of Cyclone Phailin, a catastrophic storm roughly the size of Hurricane Katrina, which struck India’s eastern coast on October 12, 2013. Cyclone Phailin's winds reached gusts of 125 miles per hour and storm surges of ten feet inundated the districts of Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Bhadrak and Jajpur in Odisha State. Before the storm, the government pre-emptively evacuated nearly one million people across the two most affected states of Odisha (873,000) and Andhra Pradesh (100,000). While authorities put the death toll from the massive storm at 30 - far fewer than feared - more than 12 million people were affected by the cyclone. In its wake, Cyclone Phailin left wide-scale crop destruction, contaminated water supplies, the threat of disease and a devastated infrastructure.

Hundreds of thousands of people returned to their homes to find them damaged or completely destroyed, while flooding caused by the storm contaminated water supplies and caused an increase in upper respiratory infections, skin diseases, and a steep increase in cases of diarrhea. These diseases were in danger of spreading quickly at overcrowded evacuation centers that often had poor sanitation conditions.

Initial Emergency Response Activities: International Medical Corps began its emergency response in Odisha where an estimated 200,000 people were stranded due to flooding in two of the hardest-hit districts: Balasore and Mayurbhanj. Many communities in Balasore were not prepared for the continuous rain that flooded 1,725 villages, affecting 348,778 people and over 260 square miles of crops. In Mayurbhanj, the destruction was similarly devastating, with floods affecting 737 villages, 342,260 people, and over 200 square miles of crops.

In partnership with the Chief District Medical Officers and local health authorities, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team deployed mobile medical units to more than 38 villages marooned by the cyclone in Balasore and Mayurbhanj and provided more than 24,000 critically-needed primary healthcare consultations. Working through local partners, International Medical Corps also distributed 900 hygiene kits to 5,000 people that included sanitary and non-food items, such as, soap, laundry detergent, mosquito nets and water containers, to thwart the spread of communicable disease.

In support of the Government of Odisha’s nutrition program targeting children and pregnant and lactating women, International Medical Corps provided information, education and communication materials to the Balasore District Welfare Office as much of their awareness materials were damaged in the floods. International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response team delivered materials on the importance of breastfeeding and vaccinations for newborns, and monitoring weight and nutrition of their children, that will be provided to the government-supported nutrition centers all over Balasore district.

International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team continued to provide emergency healthcare to communities recovering from the disaster throughout November, and completed its last mobile medical unit operations on November 30 in order to transition to early recovery and longer-term development programs.

Building Back Better with Local Partners: Working with its local partner, Unnayan, International Medical Corps focused its efforts on reducing future disaster risks, specifically related to the water supply and the links between hygiene and health. Using a comprehensive approach that includes rehabilitation of water sources, construction of hygiene facilities, stockpiling and dissemination of hygiene supplies, and hygiene education and promotion, International Medical Corps and Unnayan worked to ensure that families and communities are prepared to protect water sources and thwart the spread of communicable diseases before and after a disaster strikes.

  • Improving Infrastructure: A wide-spread challenge in Odisha during the disaster was the submersion of hand pumps by flood waters, causing them to become contaminated with various water borne diseases. To mitigate this issue, International Medical Corps and Unnayan constructed elevated platforms in eight villages to raise the height of hand pumps, which will help prevent the submersion of the pumps during future flooding. Additionally, teams taught families how to chlorinate water from private household hand pumps to ensure their safety. In total, International Medical Corps and Unnayan raised the platforms of eight hand pumps in seven different villages in the Balasore district and chlorinated an additional 20 existing wells. To ensure that these improvements make a lasting impact, groups of men and women in each village were trained on proper water-source protection and water quality monitoring.
  • Investing in the Future Through Education: International Medical Corps and Unnayan also implemented an awareness campaign focused on safe water, sanitation and hygiene practices at the individual household level, community level, and in 10 schools. In addition, International Medical Corps provided professional development and training to community healthcare workers and hygiene promoters in India. Training is focused on best practices in providing community-based education on women’s personal hygiene; safety processes for drinking, storing, and handling water; use of latrines; and the hazards associated with unhygienic behavior such as not washing hands. In conjunction with hygiene education, 900 hygiene kits were provided to students, and hygiene and first aid kits were distributed to 10 schools.  
  • Improvements that Respect People and the Environment: Further, consultations with villagers that took place in November 2013 revealed the need for longer-term solutions to hygiene needs and challenges, especially for girls and women. In response to these concerns, International Medical Corps supported the construction of bathing cubicles in eight villages in Balasore District, which were connected to the previously elevated hand pump platforms, and allow girls and women to have a private area to bathe. The use of soaps and washing detergents is localized within the cubicles, with little runoff, which reduces the environmental impact of contaminants to local rivers and other natural water sources.

Conclusion: In the weeks following Cyclone Phailin, International Medical Corps transitioned from emergency response primary health care activities to restoring capacity and building self-reliance in storm-ravaged areas by developing solutions to mitigate destruction from future storms, helping local communities to become their own, best First Responders. While no area is immune to the damage that can be unleashed by a storm of Cyclone Phailin’s magnitude, families and communities can be equipped with the tools and knowledge in areas such as water, sanitation and hygiene to prepare for future emergencies and recover more quickly. Support from Global Giving helped ensure that the people of India are more resilient and have the tools they need to prepare for future disasters. This project accomplished much more than origninally intended and is fully funded and complete!

International Medical Corps hygiene kit
International Medical Corps hygiene kit
Submerged Hand Pump
Submerged Hand Pump
demonstrating the height this well will be raised
demonstrating the height this well will be raised
Completed pump with attached bathing cubicle
Completed pump with attached bathing cubicle
Hygiene Education Session by Unnayan
Hygiene Education Session by Unnayan
Jul 23, 2014

Rehabilitating Philippine Schools Through Water and Sanitation Programs

Children using a newly installed washing station
Children using a newly installed washing station

Background: Out of the estimated population of 9.9 million affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, approximately 4 million were children under the age of 18. In the aftermath of the disaster, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the Government of the Philippines reported immediate threats to children’s basic health including, among others, lack of safe drinking water, lack of sufficient food, and lack of access to sanitation and personal hygiene items. Moreover, Typhoon Haiyan caused extensive damage in schools, destroying infrastructure, school equipment and learning materials. More than 2,500 schools and 800 day care centers were partially or totally destroyed. In some areas, this meant that children had little to no access to safe water or an adequate number of toilets in schools, creating an unsafe learning environment, while in others there were simply no school buildings at all. 

International Medical Corps was on the ground in the Philippines within 24 hours of Typhoon Haiyan, and began delivering a comprehensive emergency response. In order to meet immediate needs of survivors and thwart the spread of disease, International Medical Corps worked to provide clean water by distributing water purification tablets; providing clean water-storage receptacles such as buckets, Jerry cans, and DayOne Response Waterbags; and distributing hygiene kits.   

Building Back Better: Soon after the immediate needs of the survivors were met, International Medical Corps began rehabilitating damaged water and sanitation infrastructure at storm-ravaged schools. The overall goal of International Medical Corps’ water and sanitation work at Typhoon-affected schools is to repair or replace damaged toilets and hand-washing systems in 130+ sites throughout the Leyte Province while also keeping aligned with the Philippines Department of Education’s goal to ensure that children can return to learning in a safe environment. When this project is complete, it will have reached more than 57,000 school children with improved water and sanitation services. In order to meet this goal, International Medical Corps worked with partners – the Department of Education, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and UNICEF – to jointly implement the “Back to Learning Campaign” to encourage families to send their children back to school.

Program Activities and Accomplishments: To improve the water, sanitation, and hygiene situation in priority schools, International Medical Corps carried out the following activities:  

  • Rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities: International Medical Corps rehabilitated latrine facilities for both students and teachers, which are sex-segregated and lockable; restored water supply services; installed or repaired hand washing facilities; and created solid waste disposal pits.
  • Hygiene supplies: International Medical Corps provided hygiene kits to the students and teachers, and cleaning materials as needed.
  • Hygiene education: International Medical Corps trained teachers and students on proper personal and school hygiene. These hygiene lessons were passed from student and teacher “hygiene champions” to other members of the community which increased the benefit of this program. 

Following the principle of ‘building back better’, International Medical Corps’ construction of sanitation facilities and water supply systems were built to better withstand future storms and other natural disasters. In addition, International Medical Corps worked to engage interested students in roles as “Hygiene Champions” in an effort to encourage ongoing hygiene promotion and the permanent adoption of recommended hygiene behaviors in these schools and the greater community.

With support from Global Giving and other donors, International Medical Corps has completed the following milestones in 7 target municipalities in Leyte Province, including Burauen, Dagami, Julita, La Paz, MacArthur, Mayorga and Tabon Tabon:

  • Rehabilitated water and sanitation systems at 40 schools with an additional 44 in progress
  • Provided hygiene trainings to 130 schools
  • Trained 1,041 teachers on proper hygiene practices
  • Trained 322 students and 124 teachers as hygiene champions to train others
  • Distributed over 2,440 hygiene kits

Global Giving’s support of this work ultimately helped to provide students and teachers with access to proper sanitation through the construction of stronger, more resilient sanitation facilities; water through the restoration of water supply systems; and hygiene supplies provided through hygiene kits and hygiene promotion education. By working to ensure that schools have access to functional sanitation facilities, adequate water supply systems and hygiene education, the water and sanitation in schools program works to produce better outcomes for children in these schools. These efforts are part of a global campaign to end preventable disease outbreaks in schools and thereby, minimize school absenteeism.

Hygiene education session at Matica
Hygiene education session at Matica'a Elementary
Hygiene education session at Matica
Hygiene education session at Matica'a Elementary
Hygiene education session for teachers
Hygiene education session for teachers
Mother, daughter and friends by a hygiene mural
Mother, daughter and friends by a hygiene mural
Teacher hygiene class group shot
Teacher hygiene class group shot
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.

 
   

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