Provide Lifesaving Relief to Drought Victims

by International Medical Corps
Ikhlaas with her mother
Ikhlaas with her mother

International Medical Corps has been working in Somalia since 1991. At the height of the drought and famine crisis in 2011, International Medical Corps resumed operations in Mogadishu after several years of being unable to access the city due to the control of various armed groups. Since then, International Medical Corps has provided critically needed primary health care services to affected populations, particularly internally displaced persons (IDPs).

With the support of generous donors, International Medical Corps began directly managing two permanent clinics in the Wadajir and Wardhigley Districts in Mogadishu. International Medical Corps has provided extensive training to clinic staff to improve their short- and long-term ability to provide high-quality health care to Mogadishu’s residents. International Medical Corps recently upgraded these two primary health care clinics in Mogadishu into health centers, which offer IDPs and other vulnerable populations an integrated, comprehensive package of primary health care services including comprehensive antenatal care and planned basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care.

On December 30, 2013, an 11 month old baby girl named Ikhlaas, who was suffering from oral thrush - a fungal infection in the mouth - and abdominal pain, was brought by her mother to see the consultant nurse at the International Medical Corps  supported health center in the Wadajir District. Ikhlaas's family is currently living in the Siliga IDP camp that is located next the health center.  Her entire family including her sisters, brother and mother have accessed health care services from International Medical Corps’ clinic including vaccination services (Expanded Program on Immunization), free treatment services and health education sessions.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time little Ikhlaas has had to visit International Medical Corps’ clinic. The first time she was seen, Ikhlaas was only six months old and was successfully treated for dysentery. During this particular visit, Ikhlaas was examined by our physician, treated and discharged on the same day. Ikhlaas’s mother continues to recognize International Medical Corps’ health center as the best place for her to seek health care services. She expressed her satisfaction of the services offered while adding that these crucial services are essential to the overall health of the IDP community.  

Over the next 5-6 months, International Medical Corps will continue its operations in this clinic and others like it serving the IDP community. In addition to supporting services at the health center, International Medical Corps plans to support implementation of a vaccination campaign with supplies provided by U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), engage the clinic staff in the national polio campaign, and contribute to the coordination of health activities in Mogadishu.

While the drought crisis has largely been resolved, the IDP population in Mogadishu has not significantly decreased due to continued unrest in the county, and the needs of IDPs remain high. Compounding this problem, the recent reduction of NGO operations in Mogadishu and across Somalia have resulted in higher demands on International Medical Corps’ clinics. Therefore, International Medical Corps intends to remain operational in Mogadishu for the foreseeable future, despite security challenges, in order to continue providing services to those beneficiaries in need.

The doctor examining Ikhlaas
The doctor examining Ikhlaas
The doctor writing down his diagnosis
The doctor writing down his diagnosis
The doctor handing Ikhlaas
The doctor handing Ikhlaas' mother a prescription
Fadumo holding some of her  hygiene items
Fadumo holding some of her hygiene items

Fadumo resides in Bokolmanyo camp in Ethiopia’s Dollo Ado refugee complex with her husband and five children. She and her family came from Somalia on foot, an immensely difficult six day journey, fleeing the increasingly dangerous conflict and a drought that has cost many lives in recent years. Fadumo’s relatives and neighbors were killed in the conflict, and she and her family lost many of their animals in recurring drought, leaving them with little opportunity to earn a living.

“Life,” Fadumo says, “was very difficult in Somalia.”

She had to travel about 1.2 miles to get to the nearest water point, where she waited 1-2 hours to collect water with her single 3-liter jerry can. This amount was not even sufficient to meet her family's drinking needs. Further, Fadumo had no personal hygiene items such as soap or toothpaste, making it difficult to maintain even a basic level of health. Diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia, eye and skin infections, cholera and typhoid can be prevented with reliable access to clean water and the use of basic hygiene items.

After a week in Dollo Ado’s transition center, Fadumo and her family were assigned shelter in Bokolmanyo camp. During that time, International Medical Corps built latrines and bathing shelters for individuals living in the camps, including Fadumo and her family. Recognizing that the majority of Bokolomayo’s residents like Fadumo could not afford to buy hygiene items from the market, International Medical Corps has also started working with the communities to ensure that those in need have adequate access to hygiene items by distributing nonfood item kits given by donors.

“It is only from International Medical Corps that I have received these things during my stay in Bokolomayo,” Fadumo notes.

International Medical Corps now provides toothpaste, toothbrushes, towels, nail clippers, and body soap as part of hygiene kits donated by generous organizations. Our Community Hygiene Promoters provide information on how to use the kits’ contents and access other health services available to residents.

Fadumo notes, “I am grateful to International Medical Corps that I received the personal hygiene items for free which will enable me and my family to have good personal hygiene.”

International Medical Corps implements hygiene and sanitation programs in three of the five refugee camps in the Dollo Ado corridor—namely Kobe, Melkadida and Bokolmanyo camps. Since 2003, International Medical Corps has operated programs throughout Ethiopia, strengthening local capacities and delivering services in HIV/AIDS and infectious disease, reproductive health, nutrition, psychosocial support, maternal and child health, water, sanitation and hygiene services, and livelihood security.

July 15, 2013 — International Medical Corps' work with drought victims spans many sectors, providing a well-rounded approach to assisting vulnerable communities.

In Ethiopia, our programs work to educate the population through local staff and volunteers, One volunteer, Azeb,  is an engaging young woman. Quick to laugh, people warm to her easily and she reciprocates shyly but with confidence. At 25, Azeb is the leader of an ever-growing network of youth groups in Damut Pullasa, Wolayita who are trained by International Medical Corps to educate their communities, and the youth in particular, on sexual and reproductive health.

Azeb's group, which has grown from 30 to 150 members in just 6 months, meets bi-weekly and discusses issues related to young people’s health and wellbeing. Trained by International Medical Corps, Azeb leads sessions on sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, HIV/AIDs and more. 

Azeb also acts as a “big sister” to some of her flock, who turn to her when things go wrong. She mentions a younger member of the group who, upon realizing that she was pregnant, turned to Azeb for help, recognizing the strength of the support system of which she was a part. Azeb helped the girl to understand her options and worked with her and her family to help her through the difficult time.

“Times,” says Azeb, “have changed...women are not seen as a thing now; we have equality.” This is one of the issues that she is eager to help her sisters with—to look to a future not only of marriage, but to make something of themselves. With International Medical Corps’ help, Azeb is learning the skills necessary to become a true leader for her community, as well as a role model for girls who sometimes feel lost or without choices.

In Samburu, Kenya, International Medical Corps continues to address the chronic drought that has stressed already-vulnerable groups in the region.

International Medical Corps’ interventions include the renovation and upgrades of latrines, rainwater harvesting systems, and hygiene education and information dissemination. International Medical Corps completed this work in close collaboration with Samburu District’s Public Health Officers and Water Officers.  These renovations, upgrades, and construction took place at both health facilities and local schools, providing community members with water points and acceptable latrine facilities.

International Medical Corps has also taught Public Health Officers and Water Officers how to test the quality of the water supply, providing the community with vital information on how to properly treat water for consumption.

In addition, health care workers, community health workers, and school health club members were trained on water treatment methods, hand-washing, and disease prevention. They were all encouraged to disseminate the information to their communities, providing valuable knowledge on basic hygiene practices.

Mr. Lempesi, the head teacher for Tangar Primary School, acknowledged International Medical Corps’ work. “The students here have to walk long distances to get clean, safe water. The nearest water sources was 4 kilometers (approximately 2.5 miles) away, and was very salty. It could not be used to drinking or eating. Female students often suffered the most as they were responsible for collecting water for the family. We allow pupils from far areas to fetch water from the tank to make it easier for them to come to school and avoid being absent. It is risky for the girls to go long distances to search for water, especially in this area with the wild animals and bush environment. Students can now wash their hands after visiting the latrines or when they want to eat.”

International Medical Corps’ top-down, bottom-up approach includes government officials and community members, ensuring a sustainable approach to drought relief in Samburu.


Recovery efforts from East Africa’s drought continue. International Medical Corps operates in many of the drought-stricken areas, including Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. Today, our focus is on creating sustainable solutions that will save lives in the future.

In Kenya, multiple rainwater harvesting projects will allow communities to gather and store rainwater, providing relief for both the population and their livestock. Prior to the installation of the rainwater harvesting systems, children would miss school as their families searched farther and farther from home for water. Livestock died from thirst, placing severe burdens on parents with families to feed. In these communities, water committees are developed through local leadership to establish a sustainable method of maintaining and sharing the systems.

In Ethiopia, our nutrition teams work to provide key information for caretakers on child nutrition. International Medical Corps teaches preventative strategies of malnutrition, stopping the problem before it starts. Adjacent to this, International Medical Corps also provides emergency feeding programs which offer therapeutic nutrition and essential nutrition support to households.

In Somalia, International Medical Corps improved access to safe water supply through rehabilitation of water sources. Berkhads are traditional water reservoirs that in many areas of Somalia are the only source of water for households and livestock in the dry season.  They are manmade and usually sunk into the ground with a stone or brick wall and then plastered to minimize water leakage.  They catch rain water and runoff in the rainy season and this water is then used through the dry season. 

However, many berkhads are cracked from poor maintenance, allowing the leakage of precious water.  Most berkhads are not fenced, allowing animals to drink directly from them and risking contamination of water.  Neither are most berkhads covered, which also increases risk of contamination as well as increasing water loss through evaporation.  By rehabilitating these berkhads to address these issues, access to clean water has dramatically increased and enabled improvement of both household health and the health of the livestock these households depend on for food and income. 

International Medical Corps’ response to the East Africa drought continues. There is still work to be done in these countries, and we appreciate every dollar donated to our efforts. Without you, our accomplishments would not be possible. Thank you!


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International Medical Corps

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

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