On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan passed through the Visayas Region of the Philippines with wind speeds equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane. The strongest storm of 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated parts of the provinces of Leyte, Eastern Samar, Capiz, and Cebu, affecting 14 million people and killing over 6,200. International Medical Corps was on the ground in the Philippines within 24 hours of Typhoon Haiyan, and began supporting a comprehensive emergency response. Rapidly implementing a network of mobile medical units, International Medical Corps was able to reach remote communities cut off from health care and basic services, providing over 14,625 health consultations in more than 80 villages.
As local capacity recovered and the need for direct humanitarian service delivery decreased, International Medical Corps shifted towards early recovery efforts in 17 municipalities in late December 2013, and established four programs in the areas of: health; nutrition; mental health; and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in schools. Through all of these programs, the goal is to support underserved and rural communities to “build back better. International Medical Corps was able to achieve the following in typhoon-affected areas from January until March 31, 2014:
The typhoon caused large-scale damage to local water and sanitation infrastructure, threatening the health status of vulnerable communities, and putting children, in particular, at risk for communicable diseases. To respond to this need, International Medical Corps launched an effort to repair or replace damaged toilets and hand-washing systems in over 100 local schools and reach more than 57,000 school children with improved WASH services. To date, International Medical Corps has rehabilitated the sanitation and water supply systems at 10 targeted typhoon-affected schools in 7 target municipalities in Leyte Province, including of Burauen, Dagami, Julita, La Paz, MacArthur, Mayorga and Tabon Tabon.
At San Roque Elementary School in Tanauan Municipality, only one classroom was left standing after the typhoon, and the devastation to San Roque Elementary resembles many schools in the area. “Our school was devastated; many of the roofs and walls of our buildings were destroyed. We have 11 classrooms of students and no toilet” says Patricia Andrin, the Principal of San Jose Elementary School. International Medical Corps has since rebuilt the roofs on the bathrooms and installed a new hand-washing station at San Roque Elementary School.
In addition to physically rehabilitating sanitation and hygiene infrastructure, International Medical Corps is also focused on training and educating local communities about proper hygiene practices to ensure optimal health. Through its comprehensive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program, International Medical Corps is providing information and education on WASH and related health issues.
International Medical Corps recently sent nurses to San Roque Elementary to teach the 150 students about the importance of using their new hand-washing station. This was the first training session on hygiene promotion that will eventually reach over 130 schools in Western, Central and Eastern Leyte.
“As a nurse, I can see the benefits of the WASH program because it helps prevent the spread of water-borne pathogens,” said Priscilla, a member of the International Medical Corps’ hygiene promotion team. “A big concern of our program is to involve every child, because they are prone to illness. I know it is not easy to change these daily routines, but I am excited to make a difference.”
International Medical Corps – Typhoon Haiyan Emergency Response Update:
One of the most powerful typhoons on record, Super Typhoon Haiyan has left widespread devastation, affecting an estimated 16 million men, women and children, including displacing some 4.4 million people. International Medical Corps was on the ground within 24 hours of Typhoon Haiyan making landfall, providing emergency medical services to some of the most remote communities, many of which had yet to receive relief or health care. Rapid needs assessments revealed that Typhoon Haiyan severely damaged infrastructure, including homes, buildings and power lines; disrupted water supplies; and destroyed livelihoods, especially fishing and agriculture. There was substantial structural damage in rural health centers and village health offices and the storm destroyed stockpiles, creating a severe shortage of supplies and medicines critical to delivering health care.
Rapid Deployment of Mobile Medical Units: To meet urgent medical needs, International Medical Corps deployed rotating teams of international and local medical professionals to the Philippines. International Medical Corps’ first responders rapidly mobilized supplies and began spreading out to heavily affected areas not yet reached by other organizations. In six weeks of operation (from November 15 – December 19), mobile medical teams reached more than 80 villages (barangays) in 21 municipalities throughout Leyte, Eastern Samar, Cebu, and Capiz provinces – providing 14,625 health consultations.
Key services included health care and treatment for injuries, infections and chronic conditions; mental health and psychosocial support for survivors; monitoring diseases of epidemic potential; and nutrition screening for children under the age of 5. A total of 2,171 children were screened by the Mobile Medical Teams, with a total of 120 acute malnutrition cases treated in Leyte and Capiz Provinces. Out of the total consultations, 65% of new consultations (9,349) were women and girls, often some of the most vulnerable in the aftermath of a disaster. Further, in coordination with the government of the Philippines, International Medical Corps’ teams also delivered and distributed $1.8M worth of medicine and medical supplies to health care facilities.
Increasing Capacity Through Medical Training: True to its mission, International Medical Corps also provided training to build the capacity of local health care providers while delivering emergency services. International Medical Corps collaborated with the Provincial Health Office and UN agencies to conduct trainings for locally-based medical professionals to ensure that a broad range of health indicators were monitored and holistic health care was addressed in the aftermath of the typhoon. To date, International Medical Corps trained 11 people on SPEED (Surveillance in Post Emergency and Extreme Disasters) and with UNICEF trained participants on malnutrition screening of children under the age of 5. In collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Medical Corps trained 21 participants from 5 different organizations on critical reproductive health care services designed to save lives and protect women, infants, and young girls during humanitarian emergencies (also known as the Minimum Initial Services Package or MISP). Furthermore, International Medical Corps’ Mental Health Specialist trained national doctors and nurses in Roxas on Psychological First Aid, which gives the skills necessary to support people immediately following extremely stressful events in ways that respect their dignity, culture and abilities.
Mobile Medical Team – The response in their words: Ivy Caballes, RN-- Mobile Medical Unit Team Leader, Leyte: “When we first arrived in Tacloban, I had mixed emotions as to how I would take it, because it would be my first time seeing the devastation. Because I was a part of the first Mobile Medical Unit, I was made team leader while we were still working in the evacuation center in Cebu. Working with the patients in the evacuation center in Cebu, we noticed that the patients had bad cuts and wounds. Dozens were coming to the evacuation center simply to list missing relatives and missing children. They told us their stories of the devastation. One woman told me, “We were chased by four big ships that were pushed onto land from the ocean.”
“Coming into Tacloban for the first time, I wondered what the devastation is going to be like. We arrived and saw that the airport was gone, and continued hearing stories about family members who had been lost on the coasts and loved ones who had been washed out to sea. It was really depressing and gloomy… on the road going to Tanauan, the devastation just broke your heart.”
“We were all excited to be part of the Mobile Medical Unit, because help does not often make it this far into Leyte. Working with International Medical Corps is a completely different experience. In the Philippines, when you do medical visits you often visit the place, do your assessments, provide your treatment, and then leave. With International Medical Corps, our Medical Director emphasized that we want to build up the existing healthcare providers -- the midwives and nurses -- and offer support where they cannot fill needs.”
“In some of these communities, many residents haven’t seen a doctor in years. After the typhoon, health care is finally beginning to reach the far-flung areas. It was a huge eye-opener for those of us Filipinos who didn’t know the extent of our country’s health concerns. During the crisis, the team was willing to sacrifice, everyone was willing to lend a helping hand. I really applaud the team for their patience and perseverance. It was a great feeling to be a volunteer for your own country.”
Today, International Medical Corps, in coordination with local authorities, is focused on recovery efforts including: building local capacity for mental health services, improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities in schools, and enacting an integrated treatment of malnutrition program. These activities will allow the residents of these storm-ravaged areas to become their own First Responders by making their communities more resilient in the face of any future disasters.
Yesterday (November 14th), an International Medical Corps team, including medical staff and water, sanitation and hygiene experts landed in Guiuan, on a remote island of the Philippines. They were met by hundreds of people on the tarmac, and immediately begin providing medical relief.
Typhoon Haiyan made landfall at Guiuan, knocking out water, power and communication. Two of the island’s three hospitals have been completely destroyed. Our teams have provided medical care for infected wounds from flying debris; upper respiratory infections; and complications from a lack of available medication for chronic diseases, such as diabetes. There have already been cases of diarrheal disease caused by a lack of clean drinking water, and local health officials fear an increase in cases of tetanus, dengue fever and measles in the coming weeks and months.
Just two hours after the team landed, we spoke to Margaret Aguirre, a member of our Emergency Response Team, and she noted "We were able to see the scope of the devastation. It was immense … Whole villages were flattened … We brought in food, water and medicine with us, and we’ve already begun treating patients … There are whole villages in Guiuan that have not been reached yet. That’s where we are going to be going.”
To meet the needs of the people of Guiuan, International Medical Corps is operating mobile medical units and providing access to clean water and hygiene promotion to thwart the spread of disease.
International Medical Corps has deployed a ten-member international Emergency Response Team that includes Medical and WASH professionals, and has recruited 40 local medical volunteers to staff mobile medical units in and around Tacloban and Tanauan. Mobile medical units will provide health care services, with a special emphasis on child and maternal health, including nutrition monitoring; medication; clean water, hygiene awareness and promotion; and psychosocial support and training in this area for frontline health care workers. In addition, International Medical Corps will provide a surgical team in Tanauan. As we begin delivering services, International Medical Corps will also continue assessing additional communities affected by the storm to provide health care and services to those who need it most.
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