Emergency Relief for Super Typhoon Haiyan Victims

by International Medical Corps
Water and sanitation activities in Leyte province
Water and sanitation activities in Leyte province

With this disaster more than three years behind us now, this update will be the final one for the Emergency Relief for Super Typhoon Haiyan Victims project. International Medical Corps has transitioned from emergency relief for the victims and is focusing on projects that build self-reliance. Teams remain in the Philippines, reaching communities in need with nutrition, hygiene, and sexual and reproductive health care. Thank you for supporting International Medical Corps and our GlobalGiving projects. To continue supporting International Medical Corps’ emergency efforts, please visit our “Provide Lifesaving Relief to Drought Victims” project, where International Medical Corps is responding to the urgently needed care for those most affected by the worsening drought in Ethiopia.


International Medical Corps’ Emergency Relief for Super Typhoon Haiyan Victims Update

Dr. Asunción, a neonatal specialist from the University of the Philippines, recalls that, “When Haiyan happened, we were given the window to say that it is not just about restoring buildings, but also about restoring skills.

On November 8, 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines, affecting 14 million people across nine regions of the country. Claiming more than 6,000 lives and damaging more than one million homes, the typhoon left widespread devastation.

Within 24 hours of the typhoon, International Medical Corps was on the ground. Our comprehensive emergency response included deploying mobile medical units to reach some of the most remote and rural areas of Guiuan, Roxas, and Tacloban with primary, reproductive services and psychological first aid. The units also addressed water and sanitation needs since the typhoon wiped out sources of clean water and latrines, and screened children and adults for malnutrition, since so many people were unable to find enough to eat.

We took Dr. Asunción's notion one step further, not only focusing on restoring skills but also restoring communities—and building them back better. Teams rehabilitated devastated health and water infrastructure, increased care to prevent and treat malnutrition, and helped integrate mental and psychosocial support into primary care, training medical workers and community members all along the way.

Today, International Medical Corps’ rehabilitated health facilities provide 15,000 people with access to medical care. Moreover, more than 320,000 community members are benefitting from increased medical supplies, equipment, and pharmaceuticals from an additional 26 supported health facilities. We trained hundreds of health workers on skills related to adolescent sexual and reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections and HIV diagnosis and treatment, and on proper measuring and record-keeping of vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and respiratory rate. Through outreach, we educated communities about healthy behaviors—for example, about the importance of seeking antenatal and postnatal care for women and their newborns.

Today, nearly 53,000 people in typhoon-affected areas live in open-defecation free communities and maintain handwashing facilities in their homes. International Medical Corps improved hygiene and sanitation practices, working both in schools and in the local communities to rehabilitate destroyed water and sanitation systems, train individuals and families on proper hygiene practices, eliminate open defecation, and distribute hygiene materials like soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Staff trained more than 440 teachers and students to act as hygiene champions, who speak to their communities about safe food preparation, recycling, garbage disposal, proper tooth brushing and handwashing practices, as well as proper hygiene while using latrines. Our water, sanitation and hygiene teams provided 57 schools with rehabilitated handwashing stations and built latrines to support over 12,000 households in typhoon-affected communities.

Our teams did not stop there. Nutrition staff trained Department of Health workers to detect and treat cases of malnutrition and screened nearly 40,000 children between 6 and 59 months for acute cases. International Medical Corps emphasized the prevention of malnutrition through optimal infant and young child feeding and care practices, including the promotion of breastfeeding and provision of cooking demonstrations to prepare nutrient dense foods.

To increase the capacity for national staff and local communities to promote psychosocial well-being, and prevent or treat mental health concerns, International Medical Corps trained social workers, police officers, and guidance counselors to provide psychosocial support in their communities and trained an additional 68 health workers on the World Health Organization’s Mental Health Gap Action Program, which addresses treatment and care for people suffering from depression, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.

It is with the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors that International Medical Corps is able to build upon Dr. Asunción’s sediments, not only restoring, but buildling build back better. We are extremely thankful for your support, enabling these lifesaving interventions.

Nutrition screening for children under 5 years
Nutrition screening for children under 5 years
Medical care in typhoon-affected areas
Medical care in typhoon-affected areas
Global Handwashing Day
Global Handwashing Day

When Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines, it caused widespread and severe water and sanitation infrastructure damage. Such destruction threatened the health of affected communities and put children, in particular, at risk for contracting communicable diseases. As a result, International Medical Corps has prioritized water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions since the typhoon hit in 2013. Teams ensured increased access to clean water and improved sanitation facilities, while building awareness about practices for safe hygiene.

International Medical Corps has provided WASH services throughout the typhoon-affected areas of Leyte province. To date, teams have built latrines to support 12,071 households, rehabilitated handwashing stations in 57 schools, and provided urgently needed hygiene kits, including soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste in 18 daycare centers. As many poor hygiene practices were in place before the typhoon, International Medical Corps prioritized behavior change to instill sustainable healthy WASH habits in both the local communities and their schools, while promoting positive celebrations like Global Handwashing Day to motivate and mobilize individuals to improve their handwashing habits.

Throughout its response, International Medical Corps trained more than 440 teachers and students to be hygiene champions who continue teaching topics like safe food preparation, recycling and garbage disposal, proper tooth-brushing and handwashing practices, and hygiene while using latrines. The students received soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste and participate in special clubs focusing on continuing proper WASH practices organized in their schools.

Kate is a Hygiene Champion at MacArthur National High School. Before the high school received its new handwashing station, complete with a dozen faucets and new tiles, many students frequently fell ill from the poor hygiene practices and had low school attendance as a result. Now, student absences due to illness have dropped thanks to the new handwashing station and hygiene promotion activities, which have helped prevent the spread of infectious diseases among students. “Before, we had no handwashing station and we could not ensure sanitation for ourselves,” Kate recalls.

Due to the generous support from GlobalGiving and other donors enabling International Medical Corps’ response, to date, 75 barangays, or villages, in the Philippines have achieved zero open defecation. This designation means that individuals in these areas no longer defecate outside a toilet or latrine—critically helping reduce the prevalence of water-borne diseases and improving the overall health of men, women and children for the long-term.

Kate: Hygiene Champion
Kate: Hygiene Champion

International Medical Corps is preparing to respond to Typhoon Koppu as it slowly barreled across the main island of Luzon on Sunday, bringing heavy rain and the potential for floods and landslides.

International Medical Corps prepositioned medical mobile kits and water/sanitation/hygiene supplies in advance of the storm. It is also coordinating with the Philippines government, UN agencies and other local and international relief groups. Its team of WASH specialists, a medical doctor, nurses, and logistician are preparing to conduct assessments of the affected areas and deliver relief.

Koppu, known locally as Lando, reached super typhoon strength as it came ashore early Sunday, ripping the roofs off buildings and uprooting trees in the province of Aurora. Roads and communications have been cut off, with power out in 22 towns and two cities, authorities said. So far about 15,000 people had taken shelter in evacuation centers, but the Philippines' disaster management agency said that number is expected to rise.

While some authorities estimated the storm’s maximum sustained winds of 150 mph when it made landfall, it has since lost some of its strength as it lumbers over land.

Koppu is the 12th storm to hit the Philippines this year. An average of 20 storms and typhoons each year batter the archipelago, one of the world's most disaster-prone, with a population of 100 million. A total of 40 million people are estimated to be in the areas affected by Koppu.

International Medical Corps has been operating in the Philippines since 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most ferocious storms on record to hit land, tore through the central part of the country, leveling entire towns and leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing. International Medical Corps has extensive experience in the region overall, having responded to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, and the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Dr. Carlo supervises clinical visit
Dr. Carlo supervises clinical visit

International Medical Corps’ community outreach officers conducted a community awareness-raising activity on mental health and psychosocial support in Cogon District, Ormoc City. Elected community leaders, known as the Association of Barangay Captains, participated. One of the attendees was a Councilor of Barangay San Isidro, who happened to be sent as a representative for the Barangay Captain who was unable to attend on this particular day. The Councilor was pleasantly surprised to be participating in the event, and learned about how to address stigmatization of those with mental illnesses and how to advocate for greater understanding. The councilor later shared that she and her family have been greatly impacted by stigmatization and a family member’s experience with a mental health disorder.

The councilor explained that her husband suffers from a mental health disorder. He traveled to Manila for medical care and was prescribed medications and advised to seek inpatient hospitalization. The family was not able to follow through because of lack of funds and distance from the closest hospital. Her husband finally returned home without proper treatment or medications.

His journey home coincided with his wife’s attendance at International Medical Corps’ scheduled community awareness-raising activity. One week later, the counselor brought her husband to International Medical Corps’ office asking if a psychiatrist could help them. They were encouraged to schedule an appointment with their Municipal Health Officer, Dr. Sarah, who had previously participated in International Medical Corps’ mental health gap action program—which consists of training for primary health care staff in assessment, treatment and intervention for mental health disorders. Following that program, Dr. Sarah received continuing supervision and on-the-job training with International Medical Corps’ psychiatrists.

The initial visit with Dr. Sarah was followed by a second appointment where he received medications donated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and distributed by International Medical Corps.

International Medical Corps’ national psychiatrist, Dr. Carlo, supervised Dr. Sarah’s interview and consultation with the patient on the third follow-up visit as a part of the on-the-job training program. During this follow-up appointment, Dr. Carlo recommended that an additional medication be added to the treatment plan. Dr. Sarah is grateful for International Medical Corps’ mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) program which has greatly helped train and encourage her to effectively interview and treat patients with mental health issues in her clinic.

With the help of both Dr. Sarah, who was trained by International Medical Corps, and the medicines donated by WHO, the patient is now functioning at a higher level in his daily life. He also demonstrated improvement in his mental health status exam. As the patient had worked as a driver in Manila before becoming ill, Dr. Sarah stated she would give him a “fit to work” certificate provided that he adhere to his medications and continue his follow-up consultations in the clinic. Dr. Sarah has since reported to International Medical Corps that the patient is attending follow-up appointments regularly and continues to improve.

This story is a testament to how the MHPSS program team, consisting of a program manager, a psychosocial officer, psychiatrists, psychologists, program officers and community outreach officers, has been able to work on a variety of levels within the municipalities to ensure increased understanding for mental health-related issues and appropriate follow-up and care. Organizing community-based awareness activities has helped to educate community members about a variety of mental health-related topics and the importance of seeking appropriate interventions, as well as increasing sensitivity towards such issues. By working on a grassroots level, along with the rural health units, International Medical Corps has helped connect community members with doctors and appropriate professionals, while each separate activity paved the way for holistic health care management for our beneficiaries throughout the Leyte region. With the growing number of trained health staff and resources in the province, it is expected that those patients who are experiencing financial and other hardships will now be able to access help and support in their very own localities.

Community awareness event at Cogon District
Community awareness event at Cogon District
Michaela and friends
Michaela and friends

In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan International Medical Corps has remained in the Philippines to ensure that its ongoing support for local communities has a lasting impact. One key area of focus is mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), a critically needed response both immediately following a natural disaster such as Typhoon Haiyan and as part of a longer term initiative to help move local communities back to self-reliance. The following is an excellent example of one of International Medical Corps’ current MHPSS programs.

Michaela, 15, is a 9th grade student of Alangalang National High School where International Medical Corps’ MHPSS program had its first school awareness-raising event on September 25th 2014. Community awareness-raising activities aim to educate the public on mental health issues and concerns. Within the 17 municipalities with MHPSS programs, International Medical Corps has led community awareness-raising activities with local health workers, child daycare  officers, community health team members, community captains or leaders, as part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (which is a national government program providing financial assistance to its beneficiaries), and with high school students and members of faith-based organizations. More than 9,500 people have attended and participated in International Medical Corps’ community awareness-raising activities.

Out of 469 students present for the Alangalang National High School event, Michaela caught the attention of Reggie, the community outreach officer seated right next to her. Michaela started opening up to Reggie about her personal experiences with being bullied. Michaela told her that she had not been able to open up to anyone before about this experience but she would like to have someone to talk to. They exchanged phone numbers in case Michaela wanted to contact Reggie for any reason. The night after the event, Reggie received a text message from Michaela saying that she was thankful for their short conversation.

Michaela described  herself as being tall, brown and having a lot of hair on her body. She shared that her classmates have often bullied her, calling her ‘unggoy’ (monkey), and that she has avoided dealing directly with this situation. She expressed feeling a lack of confidence and a preference to take public transportation to school rather than walk the short distance because her classmates call her names when she walks on the street. Michaela also stated that at times she does not attend school because of being bullied and frequently hears the students’ taunting voices over and over again in her head. These experiences have made her feel ashamed.

Community awareness-raising activities not only bring information and education on mental health topics to individuals but also increase awareness about community and individual concerns affecting many community members. After the presentation, Michaela realized that she was a victim of bullying. She also realized that she was not the only one experiencing this. Michaela had never informed her teachers or parents about this prior to the presentation.

International Medical Corps’ community outreach officers, Allyssa and Reggie, went back to the school on December 11th to check on her. The community outreach officers coordinated their visit with the school officials and were referred to Michaela’s class advisor , Lalaine. Lalaine had no idea about Michaela’s bullying experience and was concerned to hear about it. She accompanied the community outreach officers when they visited Michaela at her home.

Michaela and her family live in a newly built house because the previous one was damaged by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. She quickly recognized Reggie when seeing her outside near the family’s well. She initially reacted shyly but shared a warm smile. The community outreach officers said they were there to check in with her and ask her about any lessons learned from the school event. Her advisor also joined in.

Michaela assured them that she could still remember what she learned from the awareness-raising event, especially on the topic of school bullying and stigmatization. She could not hold back her tears when talking about this. As Lalaine listened to what Michaela had to say, she expressed feeling surprised at never having heard about it from Michaela previously. They both expressed appreciation for the community awareness-raising activity as it shed light on this difficult issue and made it possible to address it productively.

During the community outreach officers’ conversation with Michaela, she said this event helped her a lot. It is undeniable that bullying is affecting students like her emotionally and socially. After the discussion, she had a better understanding of why teenagers bully others and how to cope if one is a victim. Michaela now spends a lot of time with friends who help her ignore the mean comments and remember that she is unique and special. There is nothing wrong with her just because she is different. Lalaine also helped put a stop to those bullying Michaela by talking with them and encouraged Michaela to talk with her openly about her feelings and school experiences. All of these changes were triggered by the school event and are an important example of the impact the generous giving of GlobalGiving and other donors can have. With your support International Medical Corps can continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan as they rebuild and improve their lives.

Community awareness raising at Michaela
Community awareness raising at Michaela's school
Michaela shares her story
Michaela shares her story

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International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website: https:/​/​internationalmedicalcorps.org/​
Project Leader:
Los Angeles, CA United States

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