International Medical Corps is committed to preventing the effects of malnutrition around the world through training local residents to be their own best First Responders. According to the World Health Organization, 6.9 million children did not survive beyond their fifth birthday in 2013. 101 million children around the world are undernourished and 165 million suffer from stunted growth because their bodies do not have enough nutrients. In an effort to help children reach their fifth birthdays, International Medical Corps operates nutrition and food security programs in some of the world’s most food-stressed areas, including Afghanistan, Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, Chad and South Sudan. Prevention measures protect children from the devastating long-term effects of malnutrition. Without proper nutrition, which includes all the necessary micronutrients, a child’s physical and mental development is stunted. This in turn impacts his or her potential to become a fully functioning member of society.
Emaria, a four-year-old boy in Ethiopia, was abandoned by his mother when he was only nine months old and is now being raised by his grandmother. The grandmother fed Emaria goat’s milk because it was all she could afford, but this was not enough nourishment for the small, vulnerable child. She said Emaria was often irritated by small things and cried often, so she brought him to a local clinic where International Medical Corps trained staff are employed. An International Medical Corps trained community health worker diagnosed Emaria with severe acute malnutrition during a medical screening. The health worker referred Emaria to a special nutrition program at a local health facility to help him recover from malnutrition. Emaria’s grandmother started to take him to the local health facility every week for a check-up and to receive Plumpy’nut, a peanut-based paste that can be eaten at home and prevents most children from being admitted to the hospital. Plumpy’nut has a shelf life of two years and requires no water, preparation or refrigeration and is an ideal solution for children like Emaria. This is the best possible treatment Emaria can receive for his condition.
By the end of only six weeks and six visits, Emaria had shown a remarkable improvement. He graduated from the life-saving severe acute malnutrition program to a program that helped provide him with a balanced, nutritious supplement and his grandmother was educated on critical infant and young child-feeding practices. Emaria was then discharged as cured because he had attained his targets! Emaria’s grandmother, after witnessing her grandson’s miraculous recovery through such simple methods, has now become an advocate in her community against malnutrition. “I am very happy with the work that the community health workers are doing. They saved my grandson’s life because after taking the food ration his health improved tremendously” she said with a smile. The grandmother reports that Emaria is a more active, playful and happy child, he is no longer easily irritated or crying as often.
Through this experience, not only did Emaria’s health improve, but his grandmother became her own best First Responder. She urges her neighbors to feed their children properly because she does not want to see anyone else’s children suffer and she ensures her other grandchildren’s health and nutrition. Now thanks to the support of GlobalGiving and other donors, Emaria will celebrate his fifth birthday as a happy, healthy child, as every child should.
Restricted access to clean water, combined with poor hygiene, is a major challenge to maintaining and advancing community health and development, especially among resource-poor households and following natural disasters. Children are particularly at risk in this context, as they are acutely vulnerable to diseases related to the lack of clean and safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices. Diarrhea, for example, is a major killer of children across the globe. UNICEF estimates that 4 billion cases of diarrhea per year cause 1.8 million deaths; more than 1.6 million (90%) of these deaths are of children under five.
International Medical Corps has prioritized providing access to clean water as part of our nutrition programs in drought-affected Ethiopia since 2010. International Medical Corps has built 45 communal latrines in health centers and installed 80 roof rainwater harvesting systems. In addition, we have rehabilitated a total of 120 water boreholes, shallow hand-dug wells and springs that have provided 138,980 people with improved water supply systems. Teams have constructed a total of 49 sex-segregated school latrines, making a significant difference in school attendance among menstruating girls, who will skip school to avoid the embarrassment of sharing latrines with boys. We have also trained local mechanics on the maintenance of these improvements, and provided needed equipment and supplies.
In the North and North East Departments of Haiti, we continue to fight cholera outbreaks, an ongoing problem that first emerged a few months after the 2010 earthquake. Fighting cholera in Haiti is as critical as ever, as during the first four months of 2015 the number of reported cholera cases was nearly 400% higher than what was reported during the same period in 2014. According to the World Health Organization, cholera can kill within hours if left untreated, but with proper care the mortality is under 1%. International Medical Corps staff therefore recently trained 90 health professionals on cholera case management. In addition, when a cholera victim is identified, we disinfect homes and provide education for remote affected communities on prevention. As cholera is caused by contaminated water, we reduce its risk by building sanitary infrastructure, including clean water sources, latrines, showers, foot baths and hand-washing stations, as well as building kitchens with clean water in local schools.
In post-earthquake Nepal, International Medical Corps is working closely with other partners in the health sector to repair damaged health facilities in remote areas, provide specialty medical care and psychosocial support services and restore damaged WASH infrastructure to help reduce the risks of communicable diseases in earthquake-affected areas. In June we distributed hygiene kits containing basic WASH supplies to 615 households in Dhading District, for a total of 2,343 households to date. Also in June, to improve sanitation conditions, WASH teams built 78 emergency latrines in Kathmandu District’s Shankharapur and Kageshoweri Village Development Committees (VDCs), Dhading District’s Muralibhangyang VDC, and Lalitpur’s Tholodrulung VDC, for a total of 760 emergency latrines in Kathmandu, Dhading, and Lalitpur to date.
With the generous support of GlobalGiving donors, International Medical Corps is able to improve access to safe drinking water and sanitary facilities – and save lives – with projects such as these for families and communities that have lost their homes because of natural disasters.
Currently, International Medical Corps is operational in the North of Haiti. Our main office is in Cap Haitien and we have a sub-office in Fort Liberté, allowing us to work in two of the three departments in the North of Haiti.
June and July 2015 have been very rewarding months for International Medical Corps’ two programs in northern Haiti. First, we are fighting cholera outbreaks, an ongoing problem that first emerged a few months after the 2010 earthquake. According to the World Health Organization, cholera can kill within hours if left untreated, but with proper care the mortality is under 1%. International Medical Corps staff therefore recently trained 90 health professionals on cholera case management. In addition, when a cholera victim is identified, we disinfect homes and provide education for remote affected communities on prevention. As cholera is caused by contaminated water, we reduce its risk by building sanitary infrastructure, including clean water sources, latrines, showers, foot baths and hand-washing stations, as well as building kitchens with clean water in local schools.
International Medical Corps has also repaired and built new cholera beds, and has been advocating for infant cholera beds. These are specifically designed to accommodate the needs of cholera patients. They are typically easy to maintain, promoting hygiene and allowing for ease of access to bed pans. International Medical Corps’ approach to cholera case management is therefore holistic and very well known in the North and North East Departments of Haiti. Fighting cholera in Haiti is as critical as ever as during the first four months of 2015, the number of reported cholera cases was nearly 400% higher than what was reported during the same period in 2014.
We have recently kicked off our new cervical cancer program, one of the few cancers that can be prevented if caught early. International Medical Corps trained and equipped 22 doctors and nurses so they can screen for early cervical cancer by using a low-cost and effective screening technique known as Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA). Women who test positive receive cryotherapy treatment on the spot using the “see and treat” method recommended by the World Health Organization. We have also trained community health workers to educate local women on the benefits of the screening. During the summer of 2015, International Medical Corps will screen 1,800 women in 11 government-supported health facilities and provide the training curriculum to local nursing schools.
International Medical Corps’ critically needed work in the affected communities of Northern Haiti has been possible thanks to the support of GlobalGiving and other donors. It is truly making a difference in the lives of those who need it most.