South Asia: One year after tsunami, IMC sees dramatic successes
From mental health and psycho-social programs that help the spirit, to micro-finance projects that boost the economy, IMC has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of survivors.
IMC's Psycho-Social Programs Benefit Many
IMC is the only international NGO with a comprehensive mental health program in Aceh. Collaborating with the WHO and the Ministry of Health, IMC has 14 staff working directly on mental health and psycho-social programs. "The tsunami had a destructive impact on the mental health of so many people," says Dr. Andrew Mohanraj, a psychiatrist serving as IMC's mental health coordinator in Aceh. "We need to listen to what people say as this shows how they are coping with what happened."
The tsunami created a huge demand on the already overburdened mental health system in Aceh. IMC's response to this has been based on the unique needs of each community. In Lamno, an area on the badly-hit west coast of Aceh, IMC's mental health team holds regular community education sessions where they help them to understand the symptoms of these illnesses and how to seek help. In Lamneheun barracks, IMC created an area where displaced children could play volleyball so they could experience some notion of normalcy and integrate with the children of the village that is their temporary home. Other activities include clinical consultations with medication when necessary, counseling, art and drama therapy, mourning ceremonies and programs to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and to reduce stigma. By training local health workers in mental health, IMC reaches more people in need.
One 12-year-old boy, who was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, had heart palpitations, wet himself and even lost consciousness when thinking of his sisters and cousins, who were killed in the tsunami. He is now talking more, going to school and eating regularly.
IMC also works closely with individual populations to develop tailored livelihood initiatives to restore people's incomes. "The trust and confidence IMC has generated in tsunami and conflict affected communities has encouraged people to put forward their own ideas," says Rae McGrath, IMC's Indonesia country director. "IMC then provides training to consolidate these ideas into sustainable initiatives that benefit the community. This participatory approach ensures that the people themselves are actively involved and motivated from the start."
IMC's Micro-Finance Initiatives Put People Back to Work
IMC has supported loans to cooperatives where the interest is invested back into further training and equipment. IMC has provided loan assistance for tailoring and market vendor businesses; roads constructed to provide communities with access for their farms; canoes and rafts built to allow vital access to clinics and schools; and support for communities to restore fish drying and blacksmith businesses, start bakeries, carpentry and tailoring workshops and goat farms.
One brick-making cooperative had 63 members before the tsunami but was left with only 30 and a furnace that was destroyed. With the support of an IMC loan, they now make 60,000 bricks per week with a percentage of their profits going to reinvestment in the company.
A fishing village in a remote stretch of Aceh's west coast lost all of its boats in the tsunami. Through a mixture of grants and tool loans, IMC has supported the fishing community to replace most of their boats and they are now back in business. "Before the tsunami, we used to make different types of knives for the agricultural workers," said Hamza, the leader of the blacksmiths co-operative restored by IMC. "We may have lost our family but at least we can preserve the skills they have taught us and rebuild the economy of our lost village," he added.
A Comprehensive Approach
With so many family members, friends and possessions lost to the sea, regaining the means to be self-reliant part of the economy has a valuable impact not only on people's livelihoods but on their
mental health. IMC takes a holistic approach to the health of a community: restoring livelihoods has a major psychosocial impact.
To date, IMC has served a target population of more than 410,000 people across Aceh. IMC has established clinics in 58 locations in Northern Sumatra and is providing primary health care services to over 70 villages.