Humanitarian Health Action

Philippines Tropical Storm Washi Donor Alert


Tropical storm Washi struck the Southern Philippines on 16 December 2011, leaving a trail of devastation in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Mindanao island.

In some places, mud-clogged rivers rose by over three metres in less than an hour, sweeping away entire villages and neighbourhoods. The ensuing floods, which were almost tsunami-like in their impact, killed more than 1000 people, injured almost 2000, and affected over 640 000 others. Almost 50 000 people have taken temporary refuge in evacuation centres. More than a quarter of a million others are thought to be living either with relatives or in makeshift shelters.

The United Nations (UN) Emergency Relief Coordinator announced the immediate release of US$ 3 million from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund. The money will be used to provide food and shelter to those affected and ensure they have access to clean water and proper sanitation.

The UN launched a revised appeal for the Philippines on 22 December 2011, calling for US$28 576 819 to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by Tropical Storm Washi. The appeal calls for water for drinking and bathing, tents, ready-to-eat foods, items of personal hygiene and sanitary equipment and supplies.

Current Health situation

According to the Department of Health of the Philippines, 31 health care facilities have been damaged (12 in Iligan, 10 in Cagayan de Oro, seven in Misamis Oriental, and one each in Bukidnon, Valencia and Negros Oriental). These facilities will need to be rehabilitated as quickly as possible.

Although no outbreaks of communicable diseases have been reported so far, the stagnant flood waters, continuing lack of potable water and inadequate sanitation expose affected populations to the risk of epidemics, especially diarrhoeal diseases and other diseases such as leptospirosis. Aside from wounds, the most common health problems are upper respiratory infections and dermatological lesions. Psychosocial support is needed for those with missing or lost loved ones, or who have lost their belongings and livelihoods.

Health concerns

Priority health concerns include:

  • Access to emergency life-saving care, especially emergency obstetrical care
  • The risk of outbreaks of communicable diseases such as diarrhoea and respiratory infections
  • The psycho-social impact of the disaster on these ill-prepared communities.

Health response

Local health authorities covering the affected areas are providing medicines, water purification tables and body bags.

The Department of Health is coordinating efforts to locate the dead and missing, and is managing overall logistics efforts through a central warehouse.

Medical and psychosocial teams have been deployed to Mindanao, and an emergency disease surveillance system has been activated.

National civil society organizations are mobilizing food, non-food items, medicines and medical supplies.

WHO response

WHO has participated in the first multi-sectoral needs assessment and is supporting coordination of the overall health response.

WHO staff in the affected areas are helping to strengthen the disease surveillance system in order to ensure that any cases of epidemic-prone diseases are promptly detected and treated.

In response to a request from the Government, WHO has donated emergency supplies to the affected area, including 416 000 bottles of water purification tablets, 20 000 doses of oral rehydration salts, 4000 containers of zinc sulfate to treat diarrhoea, 612 litres of hand sterilizer and 498 body bags.

WHO's Regional Office for the Western Pacific in Manila has also donated US$100 000 to the Government to assist with immediate relief efforts.

Health Strategic Objectives

WHO and health cluster partners will support the Department of Health in:

  • Providing life-saving health care to those injured
  • Ensuring that the affected population is given psycho-social support
  • Monitoring, preventing and containing potential disease outbreaks
  • Addressing reproductive health needs of the displaced population.

Health partners will focus their efforts on:

  • Providing medicines and medical supplies
  • Setting up temporary health posts and mobile clinics to replace damaged health care facilities
  • Deploying mental health and psychosocial support teams
  • Supporting epidemiological surveillance through the deployment of specialized personnel and laboratory testing materials
  • Implementing the Minimum Initial Service Package for reproductive health
  • Monitoring the overall health situation and conducting regular health assessments.

Funding required

Of the US$ 28.5 million needed for the emergency response, WHO and health partners are seeking US$1 763 397 (6%) to meet the emergency health needs of around 300 000 people.

For more information:

Elizabeth Hoff
Team Leader
External Relations for Emergencies
World Health Organization/Geneva
Tel: +41 22 791 4778 