One Month on from Typhoon Haiyan

Dr. Nicholas James Williams from Australian Red Cross see a patient, who has a big tumor on his lower jaw to the neck, probably malignant. Dr Williams needs to explain to the patient a difficulty of treating this case in Maya or even in Cebu. The options are very limited in this environment. Paracetamol powder is only medicine to relieve his pain.

It has been nearly one month since one of the strongest storms ever recorded, Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) hit the Philippines.

To support Philippine Red Cross efforts, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are working together on the ground to help the affected people through providing basic medical care, distributing relief goods, encouraging community based health and psychosocial support. As well as hundreds of PRC volunteers, international teams specialized in health, IT, water and sanitation, logistics and relief are working in the affected area to facilitate the recovery. Temporary shelters are now being provided both to damaged local houses and to some damaged health centers in which the Red Cross medical team is working. These efforts also facilitate the Red Cross medical teams' activities to be more sustainable for a certain period of time.

In the small village of Maya in Daanbantayan District, located in Northern Cebu with a population of 7,987, a Japanese Red Cross Emergency Response Unit (ERU) team joined by team members from Australian Red Cross, French Red Cross and Hong Kong Red Cross, has been actively engaged in providing medical services since November 20. Its activities are evolving with full support of local people and extending geographically step by step to reach more village people in Daanbantayan.

Two main objectives

JRC mobile clinic visits 2 barangays a day on weekdays. The mobile clinic is conducted at the health center of a barangay or municipal hall. On average, nearly 50 local people turn up to see a doctor.

Motto of JRCS ERU team is to be together with the affected local people to support restoring their normal life. JRCS ERU team activities are targeted mainly at providing basic medical services to respond to acute needs in the community and also to enhance community resilience/preparedness for future unforeseeable disasters through 4 pillars – ERU clinic service, Mobile clinic, CommunityBased Health Programme, and Psychosocial Support Programme.

Approach to Communities

Dr. Kevin Hung from Hong Kong Red Cross, conducts assessment to identify health needs of each barangay.

What makes the JRCS ERU team unique is that it has a community health programme. This programme is run in conjunction with the mobile clinic.

There are 20 barangays (divisions or villages) in Daanbantayan district, and in each barangay there is a midwife who provides health consultations, information such as immunization and health check-ups, and medicines for patients which have been already prescribed by a doctor. Seeing a midwife is free of charge and this is the frontline for most local villagers to seek their health advice.

JRCS ERU team is working on closely with local midwives and barangay health workers, and trying to enhance local health care workers’ capacities by providing appropriate and necessary information and organizing training sessions to broaden their health knowledge.

Main focus of PSS activities is not only taking care of individual cases that need psychosocial support, but also facilitating community gathering opportunities, such as setting up a tent for “children friendly space” next to the ERU clinic. This is to encourage villagers to resume their normal life.

Psychosocial support activity is also one of the main components to support overall communities’ health. In coordination with community based health activities, Mr. Reo Morimitsu, a clinical psychotherapist from Japanese Red Cross, provides a weekly training session for midwives and ad hoc training session for local volunteers to support “Child Friendly Spaces.”

For places such as Daanbantayan district, where it is not easy to find a psychosocial support expert, it is vital to give the community a basic understanding of psychosocial support.

Voices of Beneficiaries

Ms. Razel Tindoy (32) is living with her two children who are 5 years old and 18 months in Tinubdan, one of the poorest villages in Daanbantayan. Her husband is working in Cebu city and sends money to her rather than coming back home to save on travel costs. She brought her youngest children to the ERU mobile clinic. “My baby has been suffering from fever and cough for 9 days. I went to see a midwife to get medicine, but many children have got the same symptoms so they had run out of medicines. . I am very happy to have a doctor here today. I think this kind of medical mission is necessary especially for kids.”

The first ERU team which arrived on the ground on November 13 will continue medeical care services until December 21, and next ERU team will take over their activities.