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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Media Release: November 27, 2013

References:             Rosalinda C. Tablang     
                     President, Samahang Operasyong Sagip

                      Darby Santiago, M.D.
                      Convenor, Samahang Operasyong Sagip
                      0927-9259413 / (+632) 929-8109

Health disaster group: All is not yet well -- epidemic may soon take over affected communities; call for comprehensive rehabilitation plan

(Philippines) – In its press conference today, disaster health group Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS) criticized the government anew for its inefficiency and inept leadership in responding to Yolanda’s backwash after seeing for themselves the concrete situation of the super typhoon aftermath and its survivors.

Returning from a five-day medical and relief missions in Western and Eastern Samar, the 40-staff team of SOS volunteers reported that massive economic dislocation is experienced in the fourteen (14) barangays of Hernani and Gen. McArthur of Easter Samar and Basey of Western Samar.

Rosalinda C. Tablang, president of SOS said that the main sources of livelihood were gone.  The strong floods swept away or destroyed fishing boats, felled coconut trees, and submerged crops. 

“The people are left with nothing.  It’s been nineteen (19) days since the disaster and the survivors see no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Based on stories from some barangay officials, Tablang said it is “not clear” what the local and national government is planning for the rehabilitation of communities.  “As to how long the makeshift tents in Brgy. Batang in Hernani Eastern Samar will stand to provide shelter to the survivors, nobody knows.  No serious government aid or rehabilitation plan is apparent,” Tablang lamented.

Meanwhile, SOS convenor and medical doctor Darby Santiago warned that another surge of disaster might hit the distraught villages.  “Because of poor sanitation, lack of clean water sources, and absence of latrines, cholera epidemic may soon take over the affected families if immediate health intervention is further delayed,” Santiago shared.

He said that the people’s battle to survive is not yet over.  Epidemics could soon arise if government health authorities do not act soon. 

The SOS medical team was composed of nine (9) medical doctors with different specializations, fifteen (15) nurses, two (2) medical interns, and four (4) health workers.  They served more than 1,000 patients.  The people’s medical conditions ranged from upper respiratory tract infections, hypertension, arthritis, error of refraction, suspected primary tuberculosis, diarrhea, musculo-skeletal pain, and urinary tract infections.  Some obstetric cases were also seen by the OB Gyn doctor of the group.

SOS also slammed the Department of Social Work and Development’s (DSWD) pronouncement to end the food relief provision in December and implement the “cash-for-work” and “food-for-work” program for the survivors of typhoon Yolanda.  Tablang cited an interview aired by a news program to a woman who said she is taking part in the DSWD repacking of relief goods in a DSWD managed warehouse because she hopes to take home 6 kilos of rice given to volunteers like her.  The woman said she needed the rice to feed her family because they only received a relief pack once since the typhoon hit.

“Despite millions of donated cash and goods to the affected populations, skewed government policies make it more difficult for the survivors to receive immediate relief.  Amidst the people’s loss and empty stomachs, the government should provide livelihood and house reconstruction support instead of making people work for donated goods,” said Tablang.

Tablang and Santiago reiterated that at the end of the day, “the survival of the affected population and rehabilitation of communities is the government’s call.”

They called on the Filipino people, as well as health professionals, to share their resources and lend their talent and time to the affected families.

Likewise, SOS demands the government to immediately and decisively (1) continue food and relief distribution; (2) act on rebuilding the lives and livelihood of the affected population; (3) address the immediate health problems and concerns of the affected families; (4) institute and implement a comprehensive disaster risk reduction program geared at building the capacities of communities in preparing and responding to disasters; (5) increase the budget for disaster risk reduction.##

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