International Medical Corps (IMC) www.imcworldwide.org is a global humanitarian nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs. Established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses, its mission is to improve the quality of life through health interventions and related activities that build local capacity in areas worldwide. By offering training and health care to local populations and medical assistance to people at highest risk, and with the flexibility to respond rapidly to emergency situations, IMC rehabilitates devastated health care systems and helps bring them back to self-reliance.
In May of 2000 to IMC began working in Azerbaijan where the residents have long suffered from a severe shortage of local primary health care facilities, trained staff and supplies. IMC’s goal from the outset was to improve the availability, quality and sustainability of primary health care services in Azerbaijan for more than 240,000 people living in the southern region of the country.
The Community-Based Primary Health Care Development in Azerbaijan is well designed project and complied with AGFUND conditions. Its objectives were properly defined for the first phase, assessed and modified/developed for the second phase of the project to fit its progress, and to provide better health care services to the targeted communities. The project adopted the concept of Primary Health Care (PHC) in its approaches, and offered health care services, covering curative, preventive, promotive, and rehabilitative health care services ( including mother and child health ) , focusing on underprivileged population living in rural districts of Azerbaijan . The focus on women and children is provided by the emphasis on maternal and child health training for the clinicians and expansion of overall primary care capacity. It combines intensive direct support to local primary care clinics and systems as well as extensive training for health care professionals and support personnel. There is a significant health education effort as well. The key aspect of the work, from a sustainability viewpoint are the community health funds that have been initiated. A key need in systems that were part of the former Soviet Union is the development of value within the health care system and an insurance system or structure is necessary for future development. One way to do this is to expand the skills of the professionals in the system so that their service are more likely to be demanded and that people are more likely to pay. That task has been addressed impressively by the project.
The project trained 7800 people and improved the living conditions of 55 communities throughout 11 districts, covered 120,000 inhabitants out of which 56,000 (4 7%) were internally displaced persons (IDPs). The most important feature of the project is that it worked in close cooperation with the local health authorities and not created a parallel health care system. The project decreased the cost of the health care services, raised revenues to support running and fixed costs of clinics and formed community health funds (health care financing) to which community members contributed. The project also established number of innovative beside community health fund, like pre-paid insurance and fee-for-service payment system. These all are sustainable solution for functioning, responsive, and high quality PHC services at the local level. The project’s administrative and finance management system is well maintained and it shows replicable in other countries as implemented in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Iraq.