Hurricane Season: International Medical Corps Stands Ready

That’s why International Medical Corps prepares year-round, standing ready to respond fast and support communities devastated by hurricanes, so these communities can continue to meet the healthcare needs of people affected by the storm.

Emergency field hospital tents in Downtown Los Angeles during a simulation exercise

We have a series of mission-ready packages that can be adapted to different situations, including a portable emergency field hospital that can provide urgently needed health, trauma and surgical care; medical backpacks that are ready to go with health workers responding to disasters; and hygiene kits that are ready to be distributed to survivors who may have lost everything, or left everything behind when escaping danger. We have the ability to deliver these life-saving items quickly to hurricane-affected communities.

Hygiene kits provide basic supplies for people who have lost everything, or who had to leave everything behind when they fled the storm.

Here’s how International Medical Corps helps communities hit by hurricanes address the challenges they face:

1) First There, No Matter Where

Our ability to move fast in emergencies and our commitment to reach those in need, no matter where they are, no matter what the conditions, means that our volunteer doctors and nurses are often on the ground within hours, providing relief to devastated communities.

International Medical Corps responded quickly when Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013.

2) Relief to Self-Reliance

Our emergency response capability is critical, but our true legacy is that we help those affected by disaster to become better prepared for future disasters by passing skills and knowledge to local health workers and communities. This ensures that improvements to a local health system can be sustained long after we have departed. Embedding skills into the community lies at the heart of our mission: to build self-reliance.

When Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, International Medical Corps responded immediately.

3) Strengthening Mental Health Care

Due to continued and overwhelming chaos and uncertainty, as well as the enormity of their losses — which often include homes, community, loved ones and livelihoods — survivors of natural disasters are at higher risk for psychological distress and mental health conditions.

After meeting immediate recovery needs in Puerto Rico, we focused on providing longer-term care, including mental health and psychosocial services.

We provide mental health and psychosocial support in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Then, as communities recover and development begins, we focus on the longer term — helping to strengthen mental health care systems with the aim of helping communities heal and thrive again.

For example, after the emergency phase of our response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico, we collaborated with La Asociacion de Salud Primaria de Puerto Rico (ASPPR) to raise community awareness about the importance and availability of mental health services for youth and older adults, and implemented training for local health workers to help them better recognize and address mental health needs following a major disasters.

4) Partnering for the Greater Good

Thanks to our 35 years of experience responding to disasters, we know that partnerships can be key to an effective response. Each community has different strengths and different needs. Pairing our resources and expertise in disaster response with the understanding of a community that local health providers and community leaders bring enables us to get the right help to the right place at the right time.

We work closely with local nonprofits and community groups, regional governments, national ministries of health and international agencies in all phases of disaster response and recovery.

We were able to help people in North Carolina who were affected by Hurricane Florence in 2018 by working with partners to send out and staff a mobile medical unit that traveled to locations affected by the storm.

When Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina, we found that many community health centers were not operational due to flood waters. We worked to deploy a mobile medical unit through a partnership with Children’s Health Fund, providing 160 patient consultations and distributing more than 7,000 wound care and hygiene kits to families in need.

How You Can Help After a Hurricane

The most effective way to help people suffering from a disaster is with a cash donation. The flexibility that cash provides can save lives. In unpredictable and chaotic situations, cash enables us to quickly fill critical gaps as we see them arise. For example, following Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, we treated those injured during the storm and provided clean water and sanitation. When an outbreak of cholera surfaced, we were able to use cash donations to adapt quickly to the new danger.

Help us combat the devastating effects of hurricanes that take people’s homes, loved ones and livelihoods. With your gift, we’ll be able to provide lifesaving care worldwide when people need it most.

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