Throughout the world, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a pervasive public health and human rights issue that primarily affects women and girls. Worldwide, one in three women have been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some way, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The toll is enormous, costing billions of dollars in social, judicial, and health costs, in addition to lost wages and productivity, and incalculable physical and emotional hardship.
Despite the seriousness of this issue, services to prevent and appropriately respond to GBV are still inadequate. This is particularly true in emergency settings, where women and girls face increased risks of violence.
*Please note we never use images on this website of survivors of sexual or gender based violence
Since 2005, International Medical Corps has worked with communities and service providers to address GBV in diverse and challenging environments such as Afghanistan, Haiti, Syria, Central African Republic, Iraq, DRC and Russia. As risks and types of violence vary across cultures, countries and regions, International Medical Corps develops context-specific approaches to increase protection for women and girls and to respond to the needs of survivors of violence.
International Medical Corps’ core programming activities are implemented at the community level, where close collaboration with local service providers and grassroots social support networks is a highest priority. Working closely with these actors allows us to design programmes that are culturally appropriate and well-tailored to the particular needs of targeted populations.
In 2010, International Medical Corps was awarded a five-year cooperative grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pledge to address sexual violence during her trip to DRC.
Our GBV programmes in DRC are focused in remote and war-affected communities in North and South Kivu. Through a consortium of partners, we offer comprehensive services for survivors of sexual violence and other forms of GBV, including medical, legal, livelihoods and psychosocial support. To help shape a safer future for women and girls, International Medical Corps is also engaging communities to change attitudes around gender and violence.
Read more details about our GBV work in DRC here
When drought led to a massive influx of refugees in 2011, International Medical Corps quickly expanded its GBV programming in Dollo refugee camps to respond to the needs of a large and vulnerable population. As new refugee camps were established, International Medical Corps led GBV assessments to identify potential risks for women and girls. We then worked with partners to ensure the design and location of essential services including water, food, and healthcare promoted the safety of those most vulnerable to violence.
International Medical Corps has established Women’s Centres in Dollo refugee camps, to offer safe space for women to gather, receive information and support. Throughout camps, trained refugee volunteers lead daily “tea talks” with men and women to challenge common practices contributing to large rates of domestic violence and early and forced marriage.
The workshops, held, in collaboration with local NGO ABAAD, the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs and Wonderbox Productions, explored challenging issues such as gender roles in Middle Eastern society and participants’ views on masculinity. They also taught tangible filmmaking skills in scriptwriting, direction, production, and the technical aspects of lighting and camera work.
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.
International 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.
As 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.
International 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
True 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, 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.