The challenges and our response
Drought is one of two plagues that challenge Africa’s oldest independent country, leaving an estimated 7.9 million people in need of food assistance for their survival. Ethiopia’s second challenge stems from a large and growing refugee population that has been forced to flee armed conflict in neighboring countries, including Somalia and South Sudan.
International Medical Corps is providing important aid to address both these crises, including primary healthcare, mental health care and psychosocial support, nutrition, safe drinking water and hygiene assistance. We also administer a successful development program to improve the quality and diversity of household diet by supporting livestock ownership.
Crisis in Tigray
The conflict in northern Ethiopia continues expanding, with the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) squaring off against each other in the country’s northern regions and beyond. The conflict has created millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, while rendering more than 1,500 health facilities non-functional. In addition, emergency response efforts have been faced with numerous challenges, including widespread fuel shortages, disruption of electricity, telephone and internet networks, and logistical challenges in transporting critical supplies, including essential drugs.
Despite the difficult and dangerous conditions in the country, International Medical Corps is there, providing services in health, nutrition, gender-based violence prevention and treatment, mental health and psychosocial support, and water, sanitation and hygiene. We have more than 20 mobile health and nutrition teams at IDP sites throughout the region providing the full range of services listed above. We have so far carried out more than 160,000 consultations and have screened more than 105,000 children and pregnant women for acute malnutrition. We also have provided vital services in refugee camps across the Sudanese border.
Drought Response: Nutrition, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
International Medical Corps works in Ethiopia to provide treatment for malnourished children and programs in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), food and livelihood security and comprehensive healthcare. Through its livelihood interventions that support the nutrition program, International Medical Corps has provided emergency seed distribution for nearly 15,000 households and livelihood support for another 1,400 families.
Drought conditions have limited access to water in some regions, forcing residents—especially women and children—to travel longer distances for water, in some cases collecting from possibly contaminated sources, including rivers, ponds and springs. Growing needs for safe and potable water far exceed available resources. International Medical Corps has scaled up emergency response efforts in roughly half of the country’s 40 most affected districts, known as woredas. This support has included:
- Providing access to clean water, improving sanitation facilities and promoting safe hygiene practices
- Distribution of infant and young-child feeding information, education and communication materials
- Screening for, and treatment of, severe and moderate acute malnutrition, and training healthcare workers on severe acute malnutrition management and public health emergency management, including admission/discharge criteria, reporting and recording
- Providing logistical support to transport therapeutic foods, medications and other essential items to health centers and health posts
International Medical Corps is providing access to clean water, improving sanitation facilities and promoting safe hygiene practices. International Medical Corps’ WASH work focuses on strengthening healthcare and nutrition intervention services at the facility level by establishing a safe water supply and sanitation infrastructure. We also conduct regular hygiene awareness training, enabling communities to better understand the threat of communicable diarrheal and other hygiene-related diseases.
The WASH programming has served more than 440,000 people through infrastructure rehabilitation, water trucking, water treatment chemical distribution, and hygiene and sanitation. International Medical Corps has built 367 water points, providing safe drinking water.
International Medical Corps has also established standby teams that deploy to remote and hard-to-reach areas, providing much needed integrated WASH, nutrition and health assistance.
Refugee Response: MHPSS and GBV Services
International Medical Corps has established a mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) program in Dolo Ado for Somali refugees, and in the Gambella Region for South Sudanese refugees. This program creates access to community-based MHPSS services for refugees and vulnerable internally displaced persons (IDPs).
In Dollo Ado, International Medical Corps is providing vulnerable Somali men, women and children with training and services related to primary healthcare; sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS care; gender-based violence (GBV) prevention, mitigation and response; screening and treatment for malnutrition among children 6-59 months, and pregnant and nursing women; infant and young-child feeding and early childhood development; MHPSS; and vegetable cultivation through women’s groups.
International Medical Corps also provides training to health professionals from referral hospitals and camp-based clinics on the identification, reporting and clinical case management of GBV, sexually transmitted infections and treatment for female genital mutilation.
In addition, International Medical Corps has established two women-friendly centers—one in Dollo Ado and a second in Gambella. These spaces are platforms where women and girls receive MHPSS services, including referrals to specialised and more advanced care. In these centers, women participate in skill-building activities, and are provided materials needed for recovery activities, including musical instruments, henna design, books and art supplies.
Livelihoods and Food Security
International Medical Corps prioritises the training of community volunteers—mostly women—on nutrition education, screening and follow-up for malnourished children, and essential nutrition actions, including exclusive breast feeding, appropriate complementary feeding and other relevant preventive measures. Since 2010, International Medical Corps has trained 515 community volunteer health promoters on community mobilisation and prevention of malnutrition, as well as 448 female health extension workers in CMAM methodology. International Medical Corps also trains mother care groups (MCGs) to actively promote nutrition and healthy behavior by visiting households and conducting education sessions. Through these mothers, we have reached more than 153,000 households with health and nutrition messages since 2009.
We also have supported 5,000 female-headed households in food-insecure areas of West Hararghe zone in the Oromia region through training in vegetable gardening and distribution of vegetable seeds and tools. Income earned from gardening enables women to send their children to school and buy household assets, such as goats and chickens. Our activities also help reduce the impact of future food shocks on female-headed households by giving women more diversified and productive agricultural outputs.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV Prevention
With an estimated 673 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, Ethiopia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. International Medical Corps is committed to safeguarding the reproductive health of Ethiopian women and girls by improving awareness of maternal health and preventing HIV/AIDS and traditional harmful practices.
International Medical Corps provided technical training, capacity building and mentorship to more than 499 health extension workers, 465 healthcare providers (doctors and nurses) and 400 traditional birth attendants on safe delivery practices, antenatal and postnatal care, family planning, and the treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
International Medical Corps implements a broad range of HIV/AIDS programs around the world, including direct service delivery, integrated tuberculosis testing and treatment, food security, counseling and testing, training of health staff and prevention of mother-to-child transmission. In Ethiopia, International Medical Corps integrates community health education, including critical HIV prevention messages, into our overall programming.