Reinforcing health services in Cebu as typhoon evacuees arrive

November 2013

People whose homes were destroyed in Tacloban, Philippines leave everything behind including critical medicines when they evacuate. WHO is working to identify the health needs of the evacuees and coordinate with health partners to ensure that health services, medicines and supplies are provided to those that need them.

25-year-old Anabelle was 39 weeks pregnant when the typhoon struck Tacloban and destroyed her home. “My husband and 4-year-old daughter and myself waited in line for 2 days to catch a plane that was flying people out of Tacloban to Cebu City. When I arrived at Maktan airbase, I was so exhausted I spent the night there. The next morning, I went into labour and delivered my baby at the Regional Hospital.” Anabelle is now staying with her 4-day-old baby and family at the Batangay Tinago gymnasium in Cebu City until they can be transported by the Government to relatives in Manila.

More than 240 evacuees from Tacloban are currently living in Batangay Tinago gymnasium, the Philippines.
WHO/I. Hamam

Many evacuees whose homes have been destroyed in Tacloban leave everything behind when they get on the plane to Cebu, including critical medicines for noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and heart conditions. Others, who leave before they can be treated for injuries sustained during the typhoon, need immediate medical attention when they arrive in Cebu.

More than 240 evacuees from Tacloban are currently living in Barangay Tinago gymnasium, where the health authorities provide shelter, food, water and other items until transportation can be arranged for them to reach their relatives. Those who leave are replaced by almost 100 new arrivals every day.

Meeting the health needs of the evacuees

WHO is working with the Regional Department of Health in Cebu City to identify the health needs of the evacuees and coordinate with health partners to ensure that health services, medicines and supplies are provided to those that need them.

A midwife changes the umbilical cord dressing of a 4-month-old at the Batangay Tinago gymnasium, the Philippines.
WHO/I Hamam

Two doctors from the City Health Office are on call 24 hours a day at the gymnasium, and a nurse, midwife and nutritionist are also available on site. Most of the 25-30 patients they see every day are diagnosed with viral flu, cough and fever, but there are many who also have skin infections due to untreated lacerations or puncture wounds sustained during the Typhoon. There are also increasing numbers of patients suffering from hypertension and anxiety. Serious cases are referred to the Taiwanese Medical Peace Corps, which has set up a mobile clinic inside the gymnasium and provided an ultrasound machine.

“We are trying to get contraceptives from the Philippines Family Planning Organization because many women stopped taking birth control when they left their homes,” said the doctor on call at the centre. “We also give vitamins to pregnant women and encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies.” Plans to vaccinate children against measles are also underway in anticipation of an emergency vaccination campaign to begin next week in areas most affected by the Typhoon.

Number of evacuees is growing

There are currently 3300 people staying in 7 evacuation centres in Cebu City. With more than 2000 people evacuated by air and 10 000 by boat every day from Tacloban, this number is expected to increase. In just 4 days, the number of evacuation centres in Cebu City has almost doubled, and the Government has asked international aid agencies who are able to provide health services to the evacuees to come forward.

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