Humanitarian Health Action

Typhoon- affected communities in the Philippines vulnerable to disease outbreaks

OCHA

Nearly two weeks after Typhoon Koppu made landfall in Central Luzon, almost one million people remain displaced. WHO and partners are assisting the Government of the Philippines by providing targeted support using in-country resources. WHO has assisted with logistics, information management, provision of emergency kits, disease surveillance and is set to deploy more national experts and medical supplies.

“The severe flooding and displacement as a result of Typhoon Koppu raises the vulnerability of affected communities to disease outbreaks.” said Dr Benjamin Lane, officer in charge of the WHO Country Office of the Philippines. “We are working closely with the Department of Health to support disease surveillance and ensuring that communities are aware of these vulnerabilities in order for them to take the necessary preventive measures.”

Without careful monitoring and awareness, disease outbreaks, such as leptospirosis and dengue, become more likely after natural disasters. And in this particular disaster, malnutrition could become a serious problem for children under five, as well as for pregnant women and new mothers.

Known locally as Lando, the slow-moving typhoon brought torrential rainfall along its path crossing the region of Luzon over several days beginning on 18 October and was the twelfth tropical cyclone to enter the Philippines in 2015. More than two million people have been affected. Infrastructural damages are estimated to be more than $US 25 million, and agricultural damages top more than $US 176 million.

Preparedness as key

Due to pre-emptive evacuations and emergency preparedness, the number of dead reported remains slightly over 50, although the death and injury tolls may rise as more information becomes available.

WHO determined the typhoons’ immediate impact on the health sector to be low with 30 health facilities damaged but functioning, however, other sectors, especially livelihoods, are expected to have an important impact on the affected population’s vulnerability to health impacts. For example, extensive damages to crops at harvest time in regions already badly affected by the El Niño phenomenon are expected to increase food insecurity through March 2016.

This typhoon season is predicted to bring more intense typhoons as a result of El Niño; a major global concern that WHO is monitoring closely due to the health risks associated with extreme weather in different parts of the world. WHO Country Office in the Philippines is committed to continuing its work with the Department of Health to strengthen disaster preparedness and improve disease surveillance.