Over the last 30 years, International Medical Corps has provided more than $2 billion in lifesaving humanitarian relief and training to communities devastated by disaster and conflict. From the Nepal earthquake, to the war in Syria, to the Ebola outbreak, we respond rapidly to emergencies and remain in affected communities throughout their recovery to help people rebuild and ultimately care for themselves.
As a global first responder, our mission focuses on delivering health care programs that are high-impact, and that promote resilience in the 35 countries where we work. But how does an organization such as ours measure impact? How does one “measure” peoples’ resilience? IBM is providing us with a critical tool to help unlock those answers.
Over the last several years, we’ve been testing a new model for building healthy communities in Ethiopia – where we have been operating since 2003, and where communities are at high risk for drought, food insecurity and famine. In Southern Ethiopia, for example, the situation for inhabitants is daunting:
Forty percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day
Nearly 50 percent suffer from regular food shortages
In some villages, only 25 percent of residents have access to clean water
(the rest get their water from lakes and rivers shared with livestock)
Eighty percent of Southern Ethiopians don’t have enough clean water to meet their
In the face of enormous challenges, we’re investing considerable resources in nutrition services; rebuilding wells and boreholes to bring fresh water to communities; constructing latrines for schoolchildren; and supporting families to help them generate more income. We believe that by making concurrent investments in the total health of the community, we can help it become more resilient and better able to withstand the impacts of future droughts and famines.
In Ethiopia, an IMC health worker evaluates a young boy for signs of malnutrition
To help us gauge the impact of our program, and evaluate the resilience of the communities we serve, an IBM Corporate Service Corps team deployed to Ethiopia last year to design a user-friendly data collection tool for our team. We currently are testing and mapping the results of this tool – which is designed to help us identify the key behavioral change components that lead to resilience – and working with IBM to develop the next phase of the program.
Having access to sophisticated data analytics tools is essential to our ability to continue to serve our beneficiaries efficiently and effectively, and our donors have taken notice. Among others, the Clinton Foundation and the European Union have expressed interest in the outcome of our data analytics project with IBM so as to establish criteria for future assessments of program effectiveness.
IBM has been a valued partner in helping International Medical Corps serve our constituencies better. Together, we are leveraging our expertise to establish a new protocol for evaluating the effectiveness of responses to global crises.
Rebecca Milner is Vice President of Institutional Advancement at the International Medical Corps.
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