Rebuilding health system in areas hit by Yolanda key to region’s recovery

WHO/Aphaluck Bhatiasevi

MANILA, 20 December 2013 — For the World Health Organization (WHO), rebuilding the health system is going to be part and parcel of rebuilding lives and livelihoods in central Philippines. Thousands of health facilities were damaged when Typhoon Yolanda hit the country in November, and the health services were largely disrupted.

“Given the scale of this disaster, it’s going to take a healthy population to fuel the region’s recovery,” says Dr Julie Hall, WHO Representative in the Philippines.

Top priorities in the next phase in the response to typhoon Yolanda include expanding essential health services, reviving clinics and hospitals, preventing disease and scaling up mental health services as the relief effort shifts from emergency to early recovery programmes.

On December 15 the group of UN agencies and NGOs launched a Strategic Response Plan (SRP) for Haiyan seeking US$791 million to assist families affected over a 12-month period. Of the total, US$79.4 million were requested by 15 health partners, including 28 million by WHO. Under the SRP, more than seven million people will benefit from support to health services.

From the outset of the disaster, WHO has been working side-by-side with the Philippines Department of Health to assess and address the life-saving needs of survivors and coordinate the emergency health response.

“Our immediate goal was to help plug critical gaps in medical services and to get the right experts and supplies into the right places swiftly and efficiently,” says Dr Julie Hall, WHO Representative in the Philippines.

In less than a month after the typhoon hit, all children still living in Tacloban and surrounding areas were vaccinated against polio and measles, an impressive achievement given the scale of the destruction and the complex logistics of vaccination campaigns. This was only possible through the joint work of the Department of Health and 24 foreign and national teams.

The risk of infectious diseases remains high, particularly in the crowded and unsanitary environments where hundreds of thousands of homeless people are now sheltering. Infectious diseases like measles, water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever and vector-borne diseases like dengue, can thrive in such conditions.

However, the primary reasons people in affected areas are seeking medical care right now are acute respiratory infections, fever, diarrhoea, high blood pressure, skin diseases, new injuries from clearing debris and follow-up care for injuries and wounds sustained in the typhoon.

Foreign and national medical teams are tending to on-going health needs, including maternal and child health care. An average of 865 women give birth every day in affected areas, of whom an estimated 15% will experience complications, some of them life-threatening.

For more information, interviews, or to arrange field visits, please contact:

Paulo Lyra in Manila
Mobile: +63 915 896 6345,
E-mail: lyrapaul@who.int

Aphaluck Bhatiasevi in Manila
mobile: +63 917 490 9757 and +63 947 170 7512
E-mail: bhatiaseviap@who.int

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