NAPLES, Florida — Emergency medicine expert, Dr. Robert Simon, founded International Medical Corps in 1984. It is a nonprofit disaster relief organization that provides medical and developmental assistance to countries in need. Today, the need is greater than ever. The frequency of natural disasters has tripled over the past 50 years, with developing nations most severely impacted. Global conflicts are also surging. The Council on Foreign Relations lists more than 20 wars, disputes and cases of unrest currently in progress. Conflict, violence and instability displace people, destroy infrastructure and cause famine, water shortages, economic crises and more. As a “preeminent first responder,” International Medical Corps’ current disaster relief efforts mitigate both natural and manmade disasters with a broad and successful reach.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
International Medical Corps recognized the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic at its onset. The organization was prepared to undertake the challenge with the support of FedEx to distribute the necessary equipment while working with “international, national and local aid and health organizations.” Training local individuals to address their community’s hardships forms a major pillar of the International Medical Corps’ disaster relief methods. Part of the organization’s response to the pandemic is delivering infection prevention and provide training for people in the most impacted areas.
Additionally, the International Medical Corps has provided communities around the globe with personal protective equipment and screened thousands of patients. Additionally, it assisted in stabilizing local health infrastructure in order to better support the influx of infected people. “The biggest challenge for our organization probably has been COVID-19,” Head of Global Initiatives Margaret Traub said in an interview with The Borgen Project. The pandemic prompted the question of “How do we roll up our sleeves and tackle this?” she continued.
Flooding in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands
A dozen countries in Europe have experienced the effects of extreme weather and disastrous flooding since July 12, 2021. The death toll had risen to 188 people in Germany as of July 18 and 38 people in Belgium as of July 29. Hundreds of people are still missing. While the countries affected are developed, they still endured drastic damage to their infrastructure with thousands of people left homeless.
Traub says that the organization’s head of logistics lists the disaster in Germany as “one of the worst” he has witnessed in about 35 years. International Medical Corps is providing its services to survivors of the floods. Furthermore, the organization’s staff are conducting evaluations on damage and needs and are also assisting those affected in the Ahrweiler rural district of Germany.
In partnership with the German nongovernmental organization Luftfahrt ohne Grenzen (Wings of Help), International Medical Corps has delivered nearly “250 tons of relief supplies.” The organization is finalizing plans for disaster alleviation in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Water Shortage and the Economic Crisis in Lebanon
Lebanon’s water shortage has been exacerbated by its currency losing value by more than 90% since 2019. As such, the government cannot afford the necessary provisions to remedy water shortages in the country. More than four million citizens are on the verge of losing access to safe and clean water.
The International Medical Corps has operated in Lebanon since 2006. International Medical Corps’ current disaster relief efforts include more than 300 staff members in the country supplying water, sanitation and hygiene services to vulnerable Lebanese people. The organization has also further assisted the victims of the 2020 Beirut explosion, providing a total of 2,700 medical and psychological consultations. “Things have actually been getting worse over the last year and there are political solutions that need to happen as well. So, with that in mind, we just continue our work,” Traub explains.
Political Crisis in Afghanistan
Conflicts in Afghanistan have been ongoing “since the late 1970s” and these conflicts have entered a new chapter in recent months with the United States withdrawing all troops from the country and the Taliban’s renewed aggressive activities. International Medical Corps’ founding arose in response to the first cases of violence in Afghanistan in 1984; the organization continues to have a presence there.
Much of the organization’s work now, according to Traub, involves training medical staff. Since the organization’s inception, it has trained 70% of members in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health. “The needs are going to continue,” Traub says, responding to the rapid political and military developments in the country. “I think we all have to kind of wait and see and plan accordingly.”
Continuing the Fight
International Medical Corps will continue to assist the most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable countries. Through its philosophy of building self-reliance in the communities where it works, the organization aims to achieve and succeeds at creating long-term improvement.
With its new status as an Emergency Medical Team Type 1 Provider, International Medical Corps can respond faster and more efficiently than ever before. International Medical Corps is the first non-governmental organization in the world to be approved for both the fixed and mobile Type 1 classifications.
“Our goal is always to go further, to reach that last mile, to reach people who otherwise aren’t being reached, to go to the hardest, most remote places,” Traub emphasizes. As natural disasters and conflict persist, International Medical Corps staff will be there to help those in need.
– Safira Schiowitz
Photo: Courtesy of International Medical Corps