Contributing Author

International Medical Corps Drives Progress for Disaster Relief & Public Safety

International Medical Corps was established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses to address the critical need for medical care in war-torn Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. 30 years later, the organization is still there, operating a broad range of assistance programs for the country’s most vulnerable groups, including the internally displaced, refugee returnees, women, and children. The First Responders program was recently chosen by the Leadership Council as the CLASSY Award Winner for Disaster Relief & Public Safety.

To determine the winners, the Leadership Council applied their own expertise to judging criteria developed by the CLASSY Awards in partnership with the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, a recognized authority on analyzing social impact within and across causes to assess programs that are poised to drive social progress. The criteria looks at (1) Scale and Scope of the Problem or Issue Addressed, (2) Strength of Strategy Employed, (3) Impact To-Date, and (4) Organizational Effectiveness and Resource Management.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”top5″]First Responders
Program Name


Start date

Rabih Torbay
Program Director


First Responders focuses on community-based primary health care by training, educating and prioritizing the hiring of local staff. 96% of their field-based staff and health professionals are recruited from the local community. The strategy behind the program is rooted in research on resiliency by the DfID: build local capacity in Afghanistan so the community can meet their own needs instead of relying on external assistance. As stated on their website, the value of their integrated approach to community health and well-being and emphasis on capacity building through training are critical for the long-term growth of conflict and natural disaster-affected communities and fragile states.

Afghanistan has been in the grip of conflict and instability for more than 35 years. Afghans have one of the lowest life expectancies and highest infant mortality rates in the world. One of every four Afghan children dies before his or her first birthday. Safety, security, and access to basic services continue to be paramount issues facing the Afghan people.

But if a pregnant woman has a trained birth attendant at her side, her chances of dying are reduced by 70%. In the eastern border provinces of Khost and Paktika, International Medical Corps has operated highly successful Community Midwifery Education programs since 2007, training First Responders from the local community to assist expectant mothers through pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal care.

[su_quote cite=”Denielle Sachs, McKinsey & Company” class=”top5″]The scale and scope of International Medical Corps impact is enormously impressive, especially amongst such an extraordinary group of finalists. [/su_quote]

“We all know the severity of health crises inside complex emergencies, but what is so important about IMC’s work in Afghanistan is that that they are not only addressing acute medical needs, but using it as an opportunity to equip the community in the long term,” said Denielle Sachs, Director of Social Impact, McKinsey & Company, and Leadership Council member on the Disaster Relief & Public Safety board.

The Midwifery program within IMC’s First Responders focuses on providing the tools to meet every day health care needs, such as nutrition, child birth and childhood illnesses to reduce their vulnerability to external shocks. Midwifery students within the program learn essential clinical skills, including how to perform an antenatal exam, manage severe hypertension, and resuscitate a newborn.

“IMC aren’t just First Responders addressing an immediate need, they are building capacity. When you are able to build capacity, you create a more resilient community. This is a critical gap in some first responder programs or traditional disaster relief organizations,” Sachs added.

The 2-year, accredited program works in partnership with the Afghan Midwives Association and is ranked first in its field by the Afghanistan Ministry of Health. It’s been recognized as the best midwifery training in the country and contributed to approximately 660,000 women getting access to maternal health care per year.

“For 30 years, International Medical Corps has worked tirelessly to train local community members affected by natural disaster, conflict and disease, so they can become their own best First Responders,” says Rabih Torbay, the First Responders Program Director. “We are honored to be recognized with the CLASSY Award in the area of Disaster Relief and Public Safety and grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness of our lifesaving work worldwide.”

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IMC accepts the Award for Disaster Relief & Public Safety on stage at the 5th Annual CLASSY Awards in San Diego, CA on May 3, 2014
IMC accepts the Award for Disaster Relief & Public Safety on stage at the 5th Annual CLASSY Awards in San Diego, CA on May 3, 2014

About International Medical Corps

A preeminent First Responder, International Medical Corps provides emergency relief to those hit by disaster, and offers the skills needed to rebuild stronger. We train people – giving communities the tools and knowledge to be self-reliant and be their own best First Responders when disaster strikes again.

By offering training and health care to local populations and medical assistance to people at the highest risk, and with the flexibility to respond rapidly to emergency situations, International Medical Corps rehabilitates devastated health care systems and helps bring them back to self-reliance.

About the CLASSYs

Since it’s inception five years ago, the CLASSYs have recognized the efforts of thousands of exceptional organizations and individuals, providing public insight into our world’s greatest achievements. With the insight and participation of experts and institutions, the CLASSY Awards has established a new way of measuring social impact across causes at a global scale. This methodology provides insight into the program strategies, outputs, outcomes and growth of these bold solutions relative to the problem being addressed.

The yearlong initiative to discover the most innovative and effective models identifies and evaluates organizations in eight major cause categories, including Active Duty & Veteran Services, Animal & Wildlife Welfare, Educational Advancement, Environmental Protection, Health Services, Human Rights & Social Justice, Poverty & Hunger Relief, Disaster Relief & Public Safety.

CLASSY Awards Nominees are selected through an intensive evaluation process created and developed in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Center for High Impact Philanthropy. For the 5th Annual CLASSY Awards, organizations were evaluated through a five-step process that began with 3600 organizations. After a pre-application form was submitted, applicants completed a 20-minute phone interview. From there, those that passed were asked to complete a Nomination Profile in order to be eligible for a CLASSY Award. The Top 5 Nominees in each of the 25 cause categories were announced, narrowing the pool down from 3600 to 121. The 121 Nominees were then passed onto the Leadership Council, whose respective boards collectively determined the 25 Finalists and ultimately the 8 Winners.


Photo: September 17: Farzana Wahidy, Afghanistan 2013 – International Medical Corps Pinterest

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