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.
Oct 2, 2016

A Clean Drink of Water: Providing Safe Water for School Girls in Afghanistan

Officials pose with the new well
Officials pose with the new well

In a remote village 90 miles east of Kabul, Afghanistan, some 2,500 young girls attend the Shikhan Girls Higher Secondary School. Although the girls have access to education, until recently, they had no access to safe and reliable water sources. “There were three wells inside the school building,” Abida, a tenth-grade student, said, “but unfortunately, none of them worked." Like her classmates, Abida lives several miles from the school, and each morning she must carry enough water to drink throughout the day. In the hot seasons, the amount of water the students need to avoid dehydration becomes even more concerning. Moreover, when students cannot access safe water, their attendance in school often drops because children, especially young girls, have to spend additional time collecting water for themselves and their families.

With students at Shikhan Girls Higher Secondary School bringing water from various sources, there was no way to guarantee that the water was safe. “Often, water which looks clean in its physical characteristics is not safe or potable for drinking,” said Yasir Ahmad, International Medical Corp’s Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Advisor. As a result, the school’s students and staff were at a high risk for water-borne diseases, especially diarrhea. Moreover, without an adequate water supply, students and staff were unable to clean the school’s toilets, wash their hands after using the facilities, or maintain other proper hygiene practices.

To address the need for clean and safe water, International Medical Corps brought together local education officials, community leaders and the school’s head master, principal and staff. The group discussed the best place for a new water tank and access points and how to effectively maintain the system for sustainable water. Once planning was complete, our water and sanitation team drilled a borehole, constructed a reinforced concrete water tower and installed a 3,000 liter holding tank, along with water access points.

In Afghanistan and elsewhere, International Medical Corps prioritizes sanitation and hygiene into our health programs as the first defense against disease and infection. Globally, one in five child deaths are due to diarrhea. Other diseases, such as pneumonia, eye and skin infections, malaria, cholera and typhoid are also linked to poor hygiene practices. As part of our comprehensive approach to health, we prioritize access to equitable, reliable and clean water, the provision and improvement of sanitation facilities and the promotion of safe hygiene practices. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, our teams have drilled wells, verified the purity of the water and installed access point to provide clean and safe water to schools, families, and entire communities around the globe. We also conduct community outreach and education on proper hygiene and sanitation practices to help people stay healthy.

Our teams rehabilitated the Shikhan Girls Higher Secondary School’s water system while the school was closed for the summer holiday. When Abida and her classmates returned, they were free to learn without the fear of water-borne diseases and concern to find clean and safe water. Now, the school has cleaner sanitation facilities and enough water for children to drink and wash their hands. Yasir goes on to say, “Water and sanitation service provision means privacy and dignity.” As a result of these interventions, the girls will be less likely to contract disease or miss school to collect water, and they can take pride in their safe water and hygiene practices.

We want to thank the GlobalGiving community for your support of International Medical Corp’s water, sanitation and hygiene programs across the world, ensuring that every child has access to safe and potable water.

Community leaders at the ribbon-cutting ceremony
Community leaders at the ribbon-cutting ceremony
The school
The school's broken well before the project
Sep 15, 2016

Bekelech's Story: Supporting Resilient Families in Drought-Affected Ethiopia

Bekelech with some of her new livestock
Bekelech with some of her new livestock

When Bekelech’s husband died two years ago, she was left with a small garden in southwestern Ethiopia, two cows, and five children to raise alone. Because of chronic food insecurity and deep poverty, Bekelech was forced to sell both of her cows so that her children could eat. She could no longer afford to send her children to school or buy seeds for her garden. “We were all hungry. I would collect fire wood and sell charcoal with an empty stomach,” Bekelech recalled, referring to her only source of income. “When things were very difficult, my children would forage for wild cabbage.”

Each year, Ethiopia suffers from a cyclical pattern of floods and droughts. This year, El Niño, the global weather phenomenon, exacerbated the cycle of food insecurity. Excessive rainfall during the wet season led to flooding, widespread crop destruction, and a rise in the spread of water-borne diseases, such as Acute Watery Diarrhea. This was followed by several months of little to no rain, which grew into the worst drought Ethiopia has experienced in 50 years. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the extreme flooding and drought continues to negatively impact the lives and livelihoods of 9.7 million Ethiopians.

In response to the drought in Ethiopia, International Medical Corps is providing nutritional support and sustainable solutions to address those suffering from malnutrition in Ethiopia. We work with mothers and caregivers to teach positive, health-seeking feeding practices that rely on locally available food as well as provide nutrition services for children under five years of age. Our teams operate health and nutrition programs for mothers and their children, integrating hygiene and sanitation support. We also operate a resiliency program to provide more than 700 landowners like Bekelech with livestock and seeds to grow locally-sustainable, vitamin-rich foods.

Bekelech was introduced to International Medical Corps’ livelihoods and resiliency program. First, she attended a two-day training on integrated crop production and efficient farming practices. Soon afterwards, our resiliency program gave her three sheep and 200 kilograms of Irish potato seeds. Bekelech said, “We did not have proper food until I became an International Medical Corps Resilience Building Project beneficiary.” The program also connected her with the Rural Savings and Credit Cooperative, a UN-funded initiative that helps farmers get small, low-interest loans to improve agricultural production. Within months, Bekelech’s potato crops were so successful that she was able to feed her family, sell most of her produce at the market, pay back the loan, and invest in her children’s education.

We thank you and the GlobalGiving community for your support as we help drought-affected families like Bekelech's become resilient.

Bekelech and her older children with their animals
Bekelech and her older children with their animals
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
 
   

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