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    IMC – Giving the Gift of Self-Reliance

    November 14, 2011

November 14, 2011

IMC – Giving the Gift of Self-Reliance

These are busy times for the world’s disaster relief organizations.  International Medical Corps (IMC) is one of many global relief organizations that  provide emergency assistance to countries stricken by natural disasters or violent conflict.  However, International Medical Corps goes beyond providing assistance.  It also rehabilitates devastated health care systems and helps bring them back to self-reliance.

Introducing International Medical Corps

imc volunteers with babyIMC accomplishes this by setting up programs training local people to provide medical care so they can carry on when the relief organizations leave.  For example, in its first year in Haiti, International Medical Corps physicians worked with Haitian medical staff, local organizations, and the Haitian health ministry to identify gaps in knowledge and skills.  Together they developed training programs and provided on-the-job support to improve quality of care throughout the existing health care infrastructure. IMC trained primary health care staff on triage, drug and pharmacy management, infection control, STI/HIV management, disease surveillance and outbreak preparedness, vaccinations, nutrition, and mental health diagnosis and case management.  IMC also established a program in coordination with the Hopital de Universite d’Etat d’Haiti (HUEH), which will train 50 physicians and 100 nurses in nearly every component of emergency care delivery. The program goal is to rebuild Haiti’s virtually non-existent health care system.

As Jocelyn Zuckerman observed in a recent article she wrote about IMC’s work in Haiti for Fast Company:

Most important, the organization encourages its trainees to return to their native communities to serve, using skills they never would have developed without IMC. This commitment to empowering locals–the whole teach-a-man-to-fish thing–is what distinguishes International Medical Corps from such better-known NGOs as Doctors Without Borders.

robert simon in afghanistan

Robert Simon in afghanistan

The founder and chairman of IMC is Robert R. Simon., M.D., Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rush University, Stroger-Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.  He started International Medical Corps in 1984 in response to the need for medical services and training inside war-torn Afghanistan. During that time, he developed the model that IMC now uses in all its deployments.  He  recruited locals from underserved areas of Afghanistan, trained them for nine months, and then sent them back to their communities with supplies, medications, and skills to set up clinics. By 1990, IMC had graduated more than 1,000 health-care workers who helped establish 57 clinics and 10 hospitals throughout rural Afghanistan.


Nancy Aossey

Since that time, IMC has delivered more than $1.1 billion of humanitarian assistance, health services and training to tens of millions of people in more than 65 countries.  It now has 4,000 staff and volunteers.  Overseeing its operations is Nancy Aossey, President and CEO.  She joined the organization in 1986 and manages the delivery of assistance to the world’s hardest-hit places, including Haiti, Darfur, Congo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Uganda, and Iraq.

Recently, IMC has been active in Libya, where through a $1 million grant from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), it is addressing immediate health care gaps in the strife-torn country.  Teams are also assisting in establishing a unified mechanism for reporting needed medical supplies and coordinating donated items.

Despite its size and scope of operations, IMC has avoided the bureaucratic inertia and waste that can plague not-for-profit organizations.  Charity Navigator, which evaluates and ranks charitable organizations, gives IMC its top 4-star rating (62.7 out of 70) for its financial stewardship and accountability / transparency.

With its focus on training locals to take over the delivery of healthcare, International Medical Corps provides a gift that keeps on giving.


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