Provide Lifesaving Relief to Drought Victims

by International Medical Corps
Baby Nina
Baby Nina

One-year-old Nina was malnourished and underweight when her grandmother brought her to an International Medical Corps' nutrition program in Eldoro village in coastal Kenya, one of the most arid regions in the country. Nina weighed only 15.8 pounds—nearly 5 pounds less than the average one year-old in the United States. To make matters worse, Nina had contracted tuberculosis and developed a hernia. Our health workers immediately began treating Nina for tuberculosis, but she was too weak to undergo invasive surgery to repair the hernia.

Nina’s story is far from uncommon in Kenya. The prolonged drought has left much of the country barren, depleting the water supply, drying the soil into cracked scales, and killing off livestock. About 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and many face chronic food insecurity, which has led to high levels of stunted and underweight children under five years of age. Many locals, including Nina’s mother, have left the village to find work in nearby cities in hopes of better supporting their families.

Earlier this year, International Medical Corps partnered with Kenya’s Ministry of Health to establish a new program to address the high levels of underweight and malnourished children, which are exacerbated by the ongoing drought. Thirty-two young children and their caregivers enrolled in the nutrition program, including Nina and her grandmother. The participants met for 12 days to learn how to prepare nutritious, locally available foods. They also covered the importance of good hygiene practices, such as hand-washing, changing diapers, and healthy eating. After the 12 days of lessons, community health workers visited each family for 10 days to make sure that caregivers were putting their lessons into practice.

After the first 20 days of the program, Nina already weighed 18 pounds, a much healthier weight for a one-year-old baby. As her weight continues to improve, she will also be able to fully recover from tuberculosis and hernia treatment. “I sincerely want to thank International Medical Corps for coming in time to rescue my child," Nina’s grandmother said. “Were it not for International Medical Corps and the partners in this nutrition program, I would have lost my child.”

We would like to thank the GlobalGiving community for your support of our nutrition programs in the face of ongoing drought to help Nina and other children lead healthier, happier lives.

Mothers and Children in the Nutrition Program
Mothers and Children in the Nutrition Program
Nina and Her Grandmother
Nina and Her Grandmother
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
Jennifer at the PD/Hearth Training
Jennifer at the PD/Hearth Training

The East Hararghe Zone of Ethiopia is increasingly affected by chronic and repeated food insecurity due to the ongoing drought, and today, children are even more at risk for malnutrition. In kebeles, or communities, of Garawedaja, Gafra Guda and Awbere in the East Hararghe Zone, our teams are addressing the high levels of malnutrition among children between six months and five years with the Positive Deviance/Hearth program. Jennifer, a member of our Nutrition and Food Security department stresses that, “We work to promote the optimal feeding, caring, and health-seeking practices on a larger scale throughout the community. It’s quite empowering for caregivers – who are often mothers – to know that they hold local solutions to keeping their children well nourished; it’s not brought in by others.”

The Positive Deviance/Hearth program provides the opportunity for community members to teach positive behaviors from households with good nutrition-related practices to households with poorer ones. Jennifer continues on, “The approach uses formative research techniques to really understand the context and identify the optimal feeding, caring and health-seeking practices that are unusual in that they are practiced by only a few households in the same low resource context – but those are what are keeping their children better nourished than the majority of households.”

As Ethiopia is currently suffering from the worst drought in nearly 50 years, resulting in an unprecedented number of underweight children – particularly affecting those between the ages of six months and five years –implementing this program helps rehabilitate malnourished children and prevents new cases of malnutrition.

We are working to reach those with access to available local resources to help improve their nutritional status, yet remain particularly vulnerable, affected by drought or food insecurity. Since 2014, we have been implementing a similar nutrition program in the Wolayita Zone for children aged six months to two years-old. Of the 135 malnourished children who attended and completed Hearth sessions, 123, or 91%, increased significantly in weight. As we expand these efforts into new communities, past communities continue to practices what they learned, addressing malnutrition at its source.

The Positive Deviance/Hearth program taps into the needs and interest by rehabilitating malnourished children and training key community members, caretakers, and local government staff to prevent malnutrition and increase their resilience in the face of crisis. Our teams most recently trained local health staff to identify positive practices of households with well-nourished children in low resource settings, which can be promoted among other families to rehabilitate children as well as prevent malnutrition. We continue to assess the needs to provide the best possible impact in malnutrition prevention, given the ongoing drought and risk for food insecurity, while trained staff communicate improved feeding and caring practices and how to prevent future malnutrition to caregivers.  

We thank you and the GlobalGiving community for your support as we work with the local communities to increase nutrition resilience in the face of ongoing drought. 

Goat's milk can have many nutrients for children

Above, a mother weighs her child under the watchful eye of a community health worker in Ethiopia during a nutrition checkup. To identify those who are malnourished or might be at risk, children are weighed and their mid-upper arm circumference is measured.

The situation in Ethiopia continues to worsen, where several consecutive seasons of below normal rainfall—exacerbated by the effects of the strongest El Niño climatic event in decades—have caused agricultural, livestock, food security, nutrition and health conditions to decline in northeastern and central Ethiopia.

By February 2016, some 10.2 million people required emergency food assistance and other humanitarian interventions, according to the Government of Ethiopia. International Medical Corps’ nutrition experts reported a sharp increase in the number of malnourished cases they have treated in the last month, a trend they project will continue.

The Government of Ethiopia is leading the effort to bring an end to this crisis and at the request of and in partnership with the government, International Medical Corps is expanding its programs and services to meet the increasing health and nutrition needs of families and communities. Over the last months, International Medical Corps teams have mobilized, expanding programs to six additional regions, assessing 90 outpatient nutritional care programs and 24 inpatient programs and training 1,385 additional health workers on malnutrition treatment, nutrition monitoring, and/or community outreach.

International Medical Corps procured and delivered medicine and medical supplies, as well as ready-to-use therapeutic food like Plumpy’Nut, a food supplement fortified with vitamins and minerals used in the fight against malnourishment, to local health clinics and facilities. Our teams also delivered supplies via donkeys to reach the most remote villages that cannot be accessed by vehicle. In the East Hararghe zone of Oromia, a donkey transported supplies from the health center to the outlying health posts. These donkeys significantly reduce transport costs, improve medical care, and community based management of acute malnutrition services.

International Medical Corps’ continues to expand outreach and education sessions, redoubling efforts to engage in discussions with community members about improving infant and young child feeding practices, particularly to encourage breastfeeding. These one-on-one and group discussions are supplemented with the use of radio messages and posters promoting positive behaviors.

Moreover, with approximately 5.8 million people in Ethiopia also in critical need of safe, adequate, and appropriate water, sanitation, and hygiene services, International Medical Corps is providing increased access to water for some of the most drought-affected communities. Expanding these activities reduces the spread of disease that can exacerbate malnutrition. We have rehabilitated 9 of 12 planned wells, which have already reached more than 3,000 people with access to safe water. Alongside improving infrastructure, our teams on the ground trained 819 water, sanitation, and hygiene community leaders to ensure proper management and provide water-related outreach in their communities.

Over the last year alone, International Medical Corps provided services and treatment for more than 22,300 children and mothers suffering from malnutrition in 299 clinics, stabilization and nutrition centers in at-risk communities and refugee camps. We continue to train and provide supportive supervision as the community members like the mother and her child above, attempt to avoid the rising risks.

We thank you and GlobalGiving for your timely support as we, in line with the Government of Ethiopia’s efforts, minimize the impact of the drought and help the people of Ethiopia access the resources they most need.

Plumpy'Nut - a fortified food supplement
Donkeys transporting material to rural health post
Donkeys transporting material to rural health post
Provision of nutritious food in Ethiopia
Provision of nutritious food in Ethiopia

The 2015-2016 El Niño phenomenon is one of the three strongest since 1950, and has the potential to surpass the strongest on record. El Niño is affecting different parts of the world with above- and below-average rainfall. Across Eastern Africa, the lack of rainfall has resulted in drought-like conditions, with 22 million people expected to be food-insecure in Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti and South Sudan. The effects of El Niño could last as long as two years.

Ethiopia is, in fact, experiencing its worst drought in over 50 years and the number of food-insecure people has grown from 2 million at the start of 2015, to 8.2 million in October and 10.2 million in December 2015, with the potential to increase further in 2016. Today, more than 430,000 children are severely malnourished, with the potential to rise to 500,000, while 1.7 million children and pregnant and lactating women require specialized nutritional support. From September through November, El Niño’s impact led to the displacement of 180,000 people within the country.

In response to the rising levels of food insecurity and resulting malnutrition, International Medical Corps is providing lifesaving relief to those in need in some of the most drought-affected areas of Ethiopia. We are seeking to scale our response efforts from our current 18 woredas or villages to 40. Our strategy emphasizes supporting acute malnutrition programs and preventive efforts, including infant and young child feeding programs; improving food security and livelihoods; increasing access to clean water and promoting proper hygiene practices; and providing comprehensive health care including primary, and sexual and reproductive health care, as well as psychosocial support for those in need. 

Because of the critical need to help build local capacity for future resiliency, International Medical Corps trains community volunteers to screen, treat and follow up on undernourished and malnourished children, and hires local mothers to teach their communities about healthy nutrition. Since 2009, we have successfully treated more than 51,600 severely malnourished and more than 40,500 moderately malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women in Ethiopia. We have also provided vegetable seeds, tools and training to more than 5,000 female-headed households in food-insecure woredas in Ethiopia’s Oromia region. Finally, International Medical Corps works with communities to construct latrines and rainwater-harvesting systems and rehabilitate water supply systems as needed. Trained volunteer hygiene and sanitation promotors have reached nearly 187,000 community members with proper handwashing and related practices that help prevent the spread of diarrhea and communicable diseases. The aim is to reduce the impact of malnutrition and unsafe water supplies resulting from the drought.

As the El Niño conditions continue into 2016, the timely and generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors is critical to International Medical Corp’s ability to provide lifesaving services for those who are most vulnerable and affected most deeply.


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International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website: https:/​/​​
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Los Angeles, CA United States

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