Provide Lifesaving Relief to Drought Victims

by International Medical Corps
Rehabilitated well in Haji Pollo IDP camp
Rehabilitated well in Haji Pollo IDP camp

International Medical Corps has operated in Somalia since 1991, when it became the first American non-governmental organization to arrive in the war-torn Somali capital of Mogadishu after the overthrow of President Siad Barre. Since May 2012, International Medical Corps has been addressing a critical and growing gap in accessible healthcare services for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable populations in Mogadishu. In 2013-2014, International Medical Corps received funding to respond to the IDPs’ emergency water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs in Kismayo, Lower Juba Region. International Medical Corps has, as a result, been able to improve access to sanitation facilities by constructing 50 communal ventilated pit latrines in 20 IDP camps within five Kismayo settlements. In addition, International Medical Corps’ hygiene promotion activities, which began in July 2014, have benefitted more than 18,000 people.

Recently, International Medical Corps rehabilitated four shallow wells, one each in Hamdi 1, Wamo 1,Haji Pollo and Nageye IDP camps. Most of the people living in these IDP camps are people displaced by either insecurity or floods, or people who lost their livestock herds – and their livelihoods – as a result of drought. A total of 614 households – or a total of 3,684 individuals – benefitted from improved access to consistent sources of safe water from the four rehabilitated shallow wells.

Fatuma is a resident of Nageye IDP camp in Kismayo lower Jubba region, Somalia. She says that the long two-hour queues have disappeared. She now needs to wait a mere 10 minutes at the well rehabilitated by International Medical Corps. The replacement of the defective hand pump, the raising of the well apron, and the deepening of the well have significantly improved both the quality and quantity of the water. Before the rehabilitation, the well apron was open and the community used an improvised lifting device – a plastic container tied to a rope – which exposed the well to contamination. The water management committee identified a volunteer attendant to oversee the appropriate use of the well. According to Fatuma, when the well is not in use, the attendant locks the hand pump using a chain fixed to the well head. Xawo, a 24-year-old woman, confirms Mrs. Fatuma’s experience: “I take just a few minutes to draw water now, unlike the previous long queues and lack of an adequate amount of water. We are much better off now.” Another woman, Fartun, adds, “Since the well has been rehabilitated and elevated, and is no longer open, we don’t need to worry about the safety of our children.”

In a surprise visit to rehabilitated wells at Hamdi and Haji Pollo IDP camps, International Medical Corps staff had the opportunity to meet Halima, a 34-year-old resident of Haji Pollo IDP camp who was drawing water. She told them that previously the well had a lot of cracks, and dirty water from outside was dripping into the well and contaminating it. The well was also dangerous: seven months before a child fell into the well and had to be rescued, and children were able to easily drop debris into the well since it was always open. The community is grateful to International Medical Corps and the generous support of its donors, as both the quantity and quality of the water have significantly improved along with the safety of the well itself. Halima added that the elected water management committee was overseeing the smooth running of the well and educating the IDP camp members on proper hygiene. “We are very much appreciative of International Medical Corps’ initiative.” It is with the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors that International Medical Corps is able to complete such critically needed projects.

Rehabilitated well in Nageye IDP camp
Rehabilitated well in Nageye IDP camp

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.

In Kenya, a woman is burdened with the important chore of collecting, managing, transporting and storing water. This can be an incredibly challenging task in Samburu County in northern Kenya, one of the driest areas of the country often plagued by water shortages. Sometimes it will not rain for an entire year in the region. The land is desolate, exposed and sparsely populated. Without access to running water, a woman must walk to the closest natural water source many kilometers away—in fact, the average distance a woman walks in Africa to collect water is six kilometers. Then, she must carry the heavy water all the way back, sometimes with a baby strapped to her back. Women in Africa on average carry 20 kg of water on their heads when they walk back from the water source.

Scola, a wife and mother living in Samburu County, only has access to one viable water source, the Nukutoto spring located in the mountains. She must travel a great distance, particularly in the dry season when the spring dries up, to fill up her jerry cans. During the dry season she must travel to another town 11 kilometers away with her donkey. When this happens, her children miss school. Given the severe drought that is currently afflicting East Africa, the spring dries up often and the children miss more school. When the spring is producing water, Scola must make the arduous hike up the mountain while avoiding wild animals who also drink from the spring. Scola says, “I usually come early in the morning to fetch water. In the morning I can manage to fetch ten liters while in the evening only five liters can be found because of competition with wild animals.” Scola’s aging neighbor, Naonkota, complains that she cannot carry as much water as the younger women. Despite her age and weak knees, she is still responsible for supplying the water in her household and she says, “Walking uphill is very difficult for me. Even if I make it to the source, I can only manage to carry back a… jerry can (up to five liters) of water.”

Not only must Scola and Naonkota avoid leopards and poisonous snakes on the trip to the spring, but the water could be contaminated. Elephants are known to muddy the water and baboons defecate in the water. Contaminated water leads to diarrhea and a high risk of contracting waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. A small-scale cholera outbreak resulted in the spring of 2013 because residents had no other choice but to drink this water. Diarrhea is responsible for almost 7.7% of all deaths in Africa. Water is life, as the saying goes, and in Kenya, when that water is contaminated, it can also mean death.

International Medical Corps, with funding from a private donor, has started to address the dire situation caused by the drought, providing access to water in Nkutoto by building a concrete shelter at the source to protect the spring from contamination and laying a series of pipelines to bring the water down the mountain and into the village for easy access. With the newly constructed water tap, the women of Nkuoto village no longer have to walk up the mountain, often with their livestock and children in tow, to collect water. A town elder, Situelia says, “This tap has ensured that our women are safe from wild animals while the water is also being used to hydrate our livestock.”  

The lack of access to clean water affects women throughout Samburu County. Silango is a remote village about 20 km from Wamba town that can only be accessed via unreliable public transportation on rough, unpaved roads. Silango, like Nkutoto, is burdened by chronic drought and disease. Recently, International Medical Corps spent about a month building the Silango sand dam, an innovative technology for harvesting rainwater and providing the community with clean, reliable water. Previously, women of Silango had to walk seven km from the nearest road to the closest water source. The sand dam is now less than 500 meters to the village and saves women an enormous amount of time and energy. The sand dam collects and stores rainwater and prevents it from evaporating during the dry season. The sand filters the water, which helps prevent waterborne disease. Water from the sand dam is also tapped and directed to the health center, the school and the outdoor market. International Medical Corps has installed a hand pump to provide access to potable water for the community and also built cattle troughs.

Susan, a mother living in Engilae, another village in Samburu county where International Medical Corps is working, says that before International Medical Corps began its sanitation projects in Engilae, the maternity wing at the health center was not operating at optimum levels due to lack of an adequate water supply. The nationally recommended supply for a health center in Kenya is 10,000 liters per day. The women had to walk a distance of two km to the Ngeng’ river to fetch water and carry it uphill to use at the health center. Bringing 10,000 liters from the river everyday was an impossible task; there was never enough water to treat patients properly and it was often contaminated. This was the water used to clean mothers on the delivery beds. Now, International Medical Corps has established a successful water and sanitation project at the health center including building latrines, promoting good hygiene practices, and, most importantly, creating access to a water supply, water storage and distribution facilities. Susan says that incidences of maternal and child health problems are decreasing thanks to the delivery of necessary services and the availability of clean water.

In an effort to unite women in Kenya in their shared burden over water chores, International Medical Corps has trained local women to form Mother-to-Mother Support Groups. Susan founded such a group in Engilae. In this group, Susan educates other mothers about important water and sanitation practices. She says, “International Medical Corps has shown us how to use baby diapers. Previously it was very embarrassing for us especially when the baby soiled its clothes. We usually dispose of the diapers by dumping them in the pit latrines or burning,” she says.

Thanks to the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors International Medical Corps is able to provide life-saving water programs in regions severely affected by drought. Its work in Samburu has made a sustainable, long-term impact in the lives of Scola, Naonkota. Situelia, Susan and their neighbors.

Severe drought in East Africa has led to acute food crisis and crops failures, affecting the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of communities, particularly marginalized and vulnerable populations. Since the majority of these populations depend on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood, drought conditions have a significant impact on these communities and the families within them. The following story resonates with the struggle of thousands of such drought victims in East Africa. It is with the support of GlobalGiving and other donors that our efforts to create sustainable income generating activities to help improve the livelihood of poor families, like Dejene, will continue to build resistance to drought and subsequent famine in the region.

Dejene resides in Zamine Welishokebele, Damot Pullasa woreda, with his wife and 6 children. For the past 5 years Dejene had been working as a laborer and earned merely 20-30 birr per day. In addition, he collected and sold firewood for extra income. Due to his poor financial condition, he was struggling to provide for the basic needs of his family, including healthcare and education for his children.

Since 2013, International Medical Corps, through its ECHO-Resilience Building program in Kenya and Ethiopia, has been supporting sustainable livelihood programs for vulnerable populations in order to improve quality of life and reduce poverty.The program’s income generation activities provide donkeys and donkey carts for people, like Dejene, who are struggling to earn a living. The program also provides a five day training session on business skills and financial literacy, through which our beneficiaries are able to gain in depth knowledge on selecting, planning and managing suitable income generating activities as well as managing household resources. The program has benefitted over 340 households, resulting in improved quality of life.

In July 2013, Dejene, along with his other business partners, loaned a donkey and donkey carts through credit and saving cooperatives at 5,500.00 ETB. Dejene now owns one bull, which he was able to purchase through his savings and has savings of 1,520 ETB and 1,000 ET Bat Rural Saving and Credit Cooperative and Village Saving and Loan Association respectively. Dejene recollects the struggles that he and his family went through before he received our support. In his own words, he says,

“I haven’t forgotten our challenges we had to face due to food insecurity. I was not able to provide enough food for my family, and as a result, my children were becoming weak and losing interest in education. I wasn’t even able to lend my support to my wife during her pregnancy as I was busy making our ends meet. With the help of International Medical Corps program, I now earn 75 ETB per day on average, from my income generation activities and I engage myself for about 10-12 days every month in these activities. Now, my family has enough food to eat and my children go to school. In addition,I have planted improved maize seeds on 0.25 hal and by covering all production cost including cost of improved seedsand fertilizer. I share the crop income and crop expenses with the owner of the land. I hope, from now onwards, I will be in a better position to fulfill the needs of my family.”

Dejene is just one of many beneficiaries, whose life has changed for the better. Dejene now earns more than 600 ETB from his donkey and donkey cart business. While he is still working hard to ensure food security for his family, the lives of him and his family have certainly improved for the better. He wants to diversify his income opportunities and invest in animal fattening, parry trade, crop farming with land owners, and wants to construct an iron corrugated house through loans from saving and credit cooperatives in the near future. With the support of GlobalGiving and our generous donors, we will be able to further facilitate the achievement of goals such as these for Dejene and other families and communities just like his. 

Handwashing station at Ethiopian refugee camp
Handwashing station at Ethiopian refugee camp

In a region as heavily impacted by severe drought that can result in wide scale crop failures and food insecurity as East Africa, preventing malnutrition remains a top priority. Diseases that exacerbate existing malnutrition, such as diarrheal diseases, are therefore a major concern. According to the World Health Organization, children who are malnourished or have impaired immunity are among those most at risk of life-threatening diarrhea. A significant proportion of diarrheal disease can be prevented through safe drinking-water and good sanitation and hygiene practices - making Global Handwashing Day a critically important event in Ethiopia, a country working to prevent malnutrition and ensure healthy futures for children and families.

International Medical Corps’ teams in Ethiopia have been working with local communities and refugees for years, encouraging healthy sanitation behaviors. Our International Medical Corps team regularly works with schools and children, recently working in the Ade Shento primary school to improve sanitation, hygiene and handwashing among its 650 students. With a new accessible latrine and handwashing facility, all the children at Ade Shento are now able to wash their hands easily and stay healthy.

Working with the next generation has been especially successful when children become agents for change themselves, taking messages back into their homes and teaching the whole family their newly acquired skills. In the Bokolmanyo refugee camp, school children are taking the power into their own hands and helping spread messages of handwashing to more than 42,000 members of their own community.

Building on this outreach, our team has marked Global Handwashing Day by spreading the word about the importance of washing your hands, with events in refugee camps and in communities around Ethiopia. In the Kobe, Mekadida and Bokolmayo refugee camps, events included singing, dancing, acting and games to spread the message of handwashing with soap. Outside of camps, in the rural Wolayita, East Hararghe and West Arsi communities, our team conducted sessions in local schools, appeals on local radio and a march in support of the day.

The generous support of Global Giving and other donors makes a huge difference to communities we serve, including helping us to continue our efforts to promote sanitation and hygiene in areas that they are so critically needed.

Latrine and hygiene station at Kobe refugee camp
Latrine and hygiene station at Kobe refugee camp

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Organization Information

International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Project Leader:
Los Angeles, CA United States