Nearly a week after Typhoon Bopha made landfall in the southern Philippines, the death toll continues to climb. For survivors, the loss of families, homes and livelihoods is accompanied by severe and growing health risks.
Clinics continue to treat survivors but are overwhelmed – in particular in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, where at least six health facilities have been damaged. At least one hospital has been declared non-functional at a time when the number of people seeking medical care is rising daily.
Treating casualties is an immediate priority, with injuries, diarrhoea and respiratory infections on the increase as a result of flooding. The loss of crops and livestock also puts an estimated 13,000 children at risk of malnutrition.
Over 350,000 people have been left homeless by the typhoon, and around 200,000 are being housed in evacuation centres. In evacuation centres visited by Merlin, buildings are often unsafe and hygiene is poor. There is limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities, increasing the risk of communicable disease spreading.
Merlin is also worried about the high number of pregnant women in need of reproductive health services, including places to deliver safely. In Compostela Valley, several municipalities including New Bataan and Compostela, are referring women to deliver in the already crowded Provincial Hospital.
Medical care for the elderly and disabled is also of particular concern when comprehensive health service delivery has all but ceased. Merlin also anticipates need for psychosocial and mental healthcare in light of the damage caused by the Typhoon.
The UN believes that affected areas will need sustained assistance for at least six months. Medical needs are expected to increase over the coming weeks and additional staff, equipment, and drugs are desperately needed.
Gabor Beszterczey, Merlin’s Head of Asia Region said: “Healthcare needs to quickly be jumpstarted, particularly for vulnerable groups, both to end the needless loss of life and limit the risk of epidemics. With food, water and shelter in short supply, typhoon-affected areas are currently facing both acute immediate needs and rapidly developing longer term problems.”
The Philippine Government declared a state of national calamity and has launched an appeal with the UN, requesting $65 million in international aid to help victims of Typhoon Bopha. At least 650 people have been killed and 900 are still missing.
Notes to editors
Merlin has been in the Philippines since 2009, when medical aid was provided to victims of the severe flooding and landslides caused by Tropical Storm Ketsana and Typhoon Parma. Typhoon Bopha was the most powerful storm to hit the Philippines this year, making landfall in the southern Philippines three times between 4-7 December
Merlin is an international health charity, saving lives in the world’s toughest places. Merlin responds with healthcare when people are overwhelmed by natural disaster, conflict or disease and are in need of immediate help.
Merlin will stay on after a crisis to assist recovery. Using medical expertise, Merlin supports health workers to strengthen existing health services and build the resilience of communities by helping those at risk of future disasters to be better prepared. For further information please go to: www.merlin.org.uk