A Cup of Tea & Helpful Advice about Gender-Based Violence



By: Ryan Erickson, International Medical Corps Ethiopia

Dozens of pairs of yellow, green, and blue flip-flop sandals lie neatly organised outside a plastic tent in Zone T of Melkadida refugee camp in the Dolo Ado complex. Located in the resource-poor Somali Region of Ethiopia, Dolo Ado is home to nearly 150,000 Somali refugees who have fled across the border in search of food and other basic resources following the East Africa drought and famine emergency. Thousands of tents dot the dusty, wind-swept landscape throughout Dolo Ado. The only other distinguishing feature about this particular tent with the collection of footwear at its entrance is a eucalyptus pole with an International Medical Corps flag fluttering at its top.

Inside the tent, a group of some thirty women – many with toddlers and infants wriggling on their laps – and five men sit cross-legged on the tarpaulin floor for an International Medical Corps-sponsored tea-talk session. They listen intently as Hakima,* an International Medical Corps Gender-Based Violence (GBV) refugee volunteer, explains to her peers what GBV is, providing some examples to illustrate. One of the participants raises her hand and asks, “Is GBV perpetrated only by men against women?

Hakima replies, saying that no, GBV can also be perpetrated by women, but that in the vast majority of cases, men are usually the perpetrators since they are the ones who usually hold power in a local household or community. The woman who asked the question is Sadiya,* a mother from a rural, agrarian part of the Baidow region of Somalia. Sadiya left her home after severe drought caused her family’s livestock to perish and their crops to fail. The drought also tragically claimed the lives of three of her children. Sadiya crossed the Ethiopian border last May with five of her children while her husband remained behind to look after their property. The grueling thirty-day journey on foot took its toll on her children and her youngest succumbed soon after their arrival.

In addition to the tea-talk sessions, International Medical Corps also provides treatment, case management and referrals to legal services for those affected by GBV.

Nine months later, Sadiya and her four remaining children have adjusted to life in Melkadida. Like most refugees in Dolo Ado, Sadiya still faces many challenges, from walking great distances to collect firewood to ensuring that her children stay healthy in the harsh environment. But one of the benefits of living in Melkadida, Sadiya explains, is the opportunity to be exposed to new ideas on how to improve her and her family’s life, such as the ideas shared at the International Medical Corps GBV tea-talk sessions.

I like attending the tea-talk sessions. I can be here with my friends. I feel safe here,” she says, clutching a cup of sweet milk tea in one hand and a fistful of popcorn – a Somali favorite – in the other. “I have a young daughter and thanks to what I have learned here, I won’t make her marry early. And I won’t subject her to female genital cutting.”

In addition to running the tea-talk sessions, where the community can learn about and freely discuss issues surrounding GBV, International Medical Corps also provides treatment, case management and referrals to legal services for those affected by GBV.

Asked if her husband would object to her new views when he joins her and their children later this year, Sadiya replies, “I will educate him, and I think he will listen. If not, I will bring him to a tea-talk session.

*Names have been changed. 


Just 22 hours after the devastating 7.0-earthquake hit in January 2010, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team was on the ground in Haiti providing medical care to survivors. Our doctors and nurses were able to mobilise on an unparalleled scale to provide 24-hour emergency care to the acutely injured at the Hôpital de l’Université d’État d’Haiti (HUEH), a 700-bed hospital in Port-au-Prince. HUEH was badly damaged in the earthquake and many local health care professionals were missing. We were able to save thousands of lives through emergency and trauma care in the critical days following the earthquake.

At the height of emergency operations at the hospital, International Medical Corps treated approximately 1,000 patients per day. Our early entry also gave us the foundation to rapidly expand our operations to 15 mobile clinics throughout Haiti to provide critical services. Through the hospital and mobile and fixed clinics, International Medical Corps teams provided more than 110,000 patient consultations during the first year following the emergency.

When reports of acute diarrhoea emerged from the north of Haiti in October 2010, International Medical Corps doctors and nurses immediately deployed to the region providing emergency relief for the growing cholera crisis. Our network of rapidly constructed cholera treatment centres, supported by 820 community health volunteers to educate communities on how to prevent and identify cholera, meant that more than 30,000 cholera patients received life-saving treatment within the first year following the outbreak.



Libya ambulanceInternational Medical Corps was among the first organisations to enter Libya once the conflict began in February 2011, providing emergency medical care to casualties from the fighting and support to hospitals with medical staff and supplies. Among the first challenges our Emergency Response Teams encountered was a chronic shortage of nurses, as thousands of foreign nurses had fled the country. In partnership with the Jordan Health Aid Society, International Medical Corps immediately deployed volunteer nurses to health centres across eastern Libya moving them to towns and cities throughout the country as access permitted. Volunteer nurses trained the local counterparts while working alongside them.

At the country’s borders and within Libya, we supplied those displaced by the fighting with essential relief items, including blankets, bottled water and food. Recognising the danger posed by communicable diseases, our sanitation and hygiene specialists constructed latrines and washing stations in transit camps along the Tunisia borders.

Libya 5As the fighting went on International Medical Corps worked as close to the front line as possible, providing emergency treatment to those injured in the conflict, and medicines and supplies to besieged towns and cities. In Misurata, inaccessible by road, we evacuated nearly 500 injured civilians by boat. International Medical Corps’ mobile field hospitals treated the wounded from battles in Tripoli, the Western Mountains, Bani Walid, Sabha, Jufrah and Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.



Mali - villagerInternational Medical Corps mobilized an emergency response in Mali in January 2013 after rebel armed forces from the north began moving south, triggering French military intervention. In Timbuktu, which had spent months under the control of armed Islamist rebel our team were amongst the first international organisations to arrive and found pillaged clinics, missing medical personnel and damaged health infrastructure.

We immediately began supporting eight strategically targeted health clinics in remote areas around Timbuktu, where the Malian Ministry of Health has been unable to maintain adequate services to local communities. By providing medicines, training staff and recruiting qualified doctors and nurses, we can ensure local people will now have access to basic primary and secondary health care for the first time in months

Mali-Road-to-TimbuktuTrue to our mission to build self reliance, International Medical Corps is also already training community health workers to go out to local markets and spread essential hygiene, reproductive health and nutrition messages. We are also working to rehabilitate clinics damaged during the conflict, by building or repairing latrines, water systems, solar panel systems and other infrastructure repairs, enabling health workers to have stable and well-equipped facilities to help the people of Mali.


Basanti & Bishal's story

Basanti, a young mother of two in Nepal, returned home from fetching water for her family to find her 8-month old son Bishal had fallen into the open cooking fire. Basanti was in shock, but she wrapped her baby in blankets and ran for help. No one in their village or at the local health post knew what to do so she had to travel more than six hours by bus to seek emergency care at the closest hospital. The district hospital could only stabilize Bishal and wasn’t able to treat his wounds properly. As a result, his little fingers contracted into a fist as the burned skin contracted and “healed” over the coming year, making it impossible for him to use his hand. His cheek, lips and eyelid also contracted and tightened, threatening his vision.

After selling part of their farm to pay for transportation to Kathmandu, Basanti sought further treatment for her baby. However, two hospitals in the nation’s capital could not help either. Adding to Basanti’s struggles, her husband abandoned the family, leaving her alone to care for Bishal and his four-year-old sister.

Thankfully, Basanti heard about the surgical care available through ReSurge International, our trusted partner with a 43-year history of serving burn victims. Dr. Rai, ReSurge’s Outreach Director in Nepal, and his team restored Bishal’s eyelid and his hand will soon be surgically repaired as well.

Even though it took more than a year for him to get appropriate treatment, Bishal is one of the lucky ones. Thousands of children never get the care they need to live a normal life after a disabling burn.


Our impact through training in 2012



Our Mother Care Group Approach


Read more about our community based approach to prevention and treatment of malnutrition