International Medical Corps is the lead agency for a comprehensive project to prepare countries in Africa and Asia for possible pandemics including SARS, bird flu and swine flu. The PREPARE project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), works with high risk countries to increase their capacity to respond and to mitigate the effects of a widespread disease outbreak, for the benefit of local communities, national response, and global preparedness against pandemic threats.
True to our mission to build self reliance, the PREPARE project aims to strengthen every part of society within a country so that the whole system is better able to respond to the outbreak of infectious disease.
The Potential for Disaster
In the current era of rapid international mobility via air travel and the proximity in which millions of people live, particularly in urban areas, the outcomes of a severe pandemic are compounding and may be difficult to manage. Beyond severe public health implications pandemics can affect many areas of society including public services, economy, and public security.
1. As more people become sick, they will have to be isolated. This leads to a significant reduction in the workforce as the number of deaths increase and people stay at home through illness or to care for sick relatives, friends or neighbors.
2. With fewer people working in vital sectors such as telecommunications, water, energy, electricity, transportation, security, health and government, the basic functions of modern society could shut down within weeks of an outbreak. It would become harder to transport food, medicine and other goods between locations to help areas that need it most. Hospitals would fill up and eventually their supplies would be exhausted, resulting in higher mortality rates and more absenteeism.
3. Authorities could lose control of law and order, and panic could set in among the general population as food supplies run low and communication networks cease to function. This situation can result in a national and ultimately a global emergency.
How You Can Prepare
For A Potential Pandemic
Preparing yourself and your family is an important part of helping to prevent the worst consequences of a pandemic. Pandemics are unpredictable in their severity, duration, and location, but they have occurred in the past and will happen again in the future. Research has shown that cities and citizens most prepared and able to implement an immediate response to pandemic threats experience significantly less loss of life than areas that were not as well prepared or unable to enact immediate response plans.
The Citizen's Guide to Pandemic Influenza
provides simple advice on how to prevent, prepare and respond to a future a pandemic affecting your community.
- Healthy Habits and Virus Prevention such as hand washing and covering your coughs and sneezes.
- Preparing your community, by speaking to neighbors and local groups, getting your flu shot
and staying informed.
- Preparing your home by storing non-perishable foods, suitable medicines and a pandemic emergency kit.
Tackling Infectious diseases around the world
Pandemics are a high impact but low probability event, occurring in severe forms at irregular intervals a few times each century. Although we cannot afford to ignore this risk that could potentially put billions of people at risk, we must not forget the millions of lives that are threatened each day from more prevalent infectious diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis, and the on-going AIDS pandemic. International Medical Corps provides emergency health care and vaccinations to save lives threatened by communicable diseases wherever we work. Our approach also supports local health systems to ensure they can prevent and manage future outbreaks of disease.
For nearly 30 years, International Medical Corps emergency response teams have responded to humanitarian disasters in more than 65 countries to bring emergency health care and training to those in urgent need – wherever they are. Many of our responses have included technical assistance for surveillance, treatment and control of infectious diseases that cause suffering, threaten lives and have the potential to create a pandemic. International Medical Corps projects in Indonesia, Azerbaijan and Pakistan have included discrete interventions targeting H5N1 preparedness. Our approximately 4,500 field-based staff deployed worldwide includes some 200 physicians and public health experts, as well as 10 Medical Directors coordinating activities at national and regional levels, including H5N1 and H1N1 pandemic preparedness. International Medical Corps published and distributed its first Field Manual for Pandemic Preparedness and Response in 2006, and our standards of delivery are such that we have entered into official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO). International Medical Corps is one of 32 humanitarian partner agencies, organizations and institutions that comprise the membership of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee's (IASC) Global Health Cluster in Geneva led by WHO's Health Action in Crises (HAC). We are an active participant in WHO's Health Emergency Action Response Network (HEAR-NET) and have provided staff to UNOCHA joint-evaluations of Country Cluster Coordination mechanisms since 2005. A representative co-chairs InterAction's Humanitarian Policy and Practice Committee (HPPC) and is active in InterAction's Avian & Human Pandemic Flu Working Group.