Tuesday, September 06, 2005

IMC: Global Humanitarians

With the recent devastation of New Orleans, Louisana that began in late August a number of Health Care Providers that responded to the crisis have received recognition from the American media. One of these organizations, however, has been on the front line of health care crises for over Twenty Years now.

International Medical Corps (IMC) has been sending doctors to "hot spots" all over the world since 1984. As a "global humanitarian nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs" IMC has saved countless lives and relieved an immeasurable amount of suffering since it began. Its beginning in 1984 was with a group of volunteer doctors and nurses, IMC who wanted to form a private, voluntary, nonpolitical, nonsectarian organization "to improve the quality of life through health interventions and related activities that build local capacity in areas worldwide". In addition to providing health services to people at highest risks, IMC offers health care training to their local communities as well. The organization also prides itself on being able to respond rapidly to emergency situations.

The health care professionals who volunteer with IMC come from all over the world. United by the common goal to save lives and alleviate the suffering of individuals affected by war, disease, and devastation, IMC rehabilitates devastated health care systems and helps bring them back to self-reliance. In order to do this, IMC places great emphasis on training local medical personnel. Skills are enhanced through the transfer of knowledge needed to rebuild the various health care systems. IMC also provides extensive, hands-on training in the full range of health and managerial skills needed to restore self-reliance.

Responding to both man-made and natural catastrophes in 1984, IMC has served in over than 40 countries on four continents. They currently have operations in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Burundi, Chad, DRC, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Indonesia, Ingushetia, Iraq, Kenya, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

In the past, IMC has also provided health care to multitudes of suffering civilians in Albania, Armenia, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, East Timor, Honduras, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Mozambique, Nagorno-Karabakh, Namibia, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Serbia, Thailand, Ukraine, the Federated Republic of Yugoslavia and Zambia.

In addition to providing health care in the middle of catastrophes, IMC has trained thousands of female health care workers who go on to teach others in their communities, and in this way expand IMC's "legacy of care."

There is a long list of the health care services that IMC provides, and while I list them below, you may find a more full description of each service at the following web page:

Primary health care
Maternal and child health care
Health education and training
Emergency relief and disaster response
Reproductive Health Care
Water and sanitation
Reconstructive and rehabilitative surgery
Nutrition services
Gender and sexual based violence

As I said earlier, IMC has served in over 40 countries, but I am only going to briefly discuss their work in one African nation in this article. In order to learn more about the project in that country, as well as the projects in other countries, you need to go to IMC's web site (which I am trying to tempt you to do with this little bit of information that I am providing you).

IMC's web site states that according to the United Nations, the situation in Darfur was the worst humanitarian crisis in the world throughout 2004 and continues to be so today. IMC also states that of the 2.9 million people affected by the crisis, "as of June 1, 2005, 35% were not receiving food assistance; 51% did not have shelter; 44% were without access to clean water; 27% lived in areas without proper sanitation; and 35% lacked access to primary health care."

Citing an improvement in health conditions in areas "fortunate enough to have received ongoing assistance" the organizations also says that the nutritional and vaccination status in Darfur is now higher than it has been at any point in the crisis. But it is also pointed out that the daunting conditions in which displaced persons are forced to live overshadow these improvements.

Those residents of South and West Dafur who have been affected by the conflict have been provided critical emergency medical services by IMC since 2004. Darfurians have been severely traumatized by the region's ongoing violence and this humanitarian group has implemented a range of services to meet the needs of a targeted population of over 288,000. And particular emphasis has been placed on the service of children under five and women of reproductive age.

IMC states that most recently it has undertaken an "emergency intervention to provide basic health services to an estimated 1500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been relocated to the Al Salam camp outside of Nyala."

IMC operates seven primary health care centers and two mobile clinics to improve access to health care services, nutritional assistance, and clean water in several areas throughout Southern and Western Dafur.

In particular, they are providing:

Family medicine;
Maternal and child health care;
Prenatal care;
and a large variety of other services that you can read about at their web site

In addition to these services, IMC has conducted a Health needs assessment with an emphasis on women's health issues and mental health among the internally displaced populations. IMC believes that the results of the study represent the unmet needs of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced women throughout Darfur.

IMC is also engaged in building local capacity by training residents of displaced communities to serve as community health workers and peer educators.

A network of Traditional Birth Attendants and midwives is used to provide first-line counseling to women who have been victims of sexual violence, while also training Community Health Workers to identify and refer high-risk cases to treatment at IMC clinics. IMC helps the Government by providing support to the Ministry of Health as well as providing on-the-job training for doctors and nurses who have just completed medical school.

IMC in also helping to restore local infrastructure as well as being engaged in water and sanitation activities, but I have to leave it to you to go to their web site to learn about these projects. I need to take the rest of the time left to me in this brief article to talk about IMC itself.

IMC employs a broad variety of professionals, a great many of whom are clinical and public health professionals. But they also use people with experience in logistics, finance, engineering, or public health administration. The organization says that most paid positions require at least a six-month commitment. IMC provides a salary, shared-communal housing, transportation to and from the field site, in-service consultation (general R&R), Health Insurance (medical, dental, and vision), and Medical Evacuation Insurance.

The organization also has a place for short-term volunteers. A large number of these short term volunteers are a part of an emergency response team. These teams are often deployment within 24-72 hours of notice and are some of the first health care professionals to arrive at a target area.

In June of this year the International Medical Corps was recognized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which awarded it a one-year grant of $537,228 to provide residents of eastern Chad with vital medical and health care services because the health care system there has been "catastrophically strained" by the vast number of refugees from neighboring Sudan.

Remember, IMC is currently in TWELVE AFRICAN NATIONS ALONE and in addition to that, it is in EIGHT OTHER COUNTRIES AS WELL. These guys a doing a great deal to help their fellow man and I really hope that you take the time to go by their web site and see if there is something you can do to help them.

You can find them at: International Medical Corps

1 comment:

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