Medical charity: don’t let Philippines become new Haiti

by Karrie Kehoe | @karriekehoe | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 26 November 2013 18:10 GMT

A typhoon survivor retrieves nails from planks to build a makeshift shelter, near a ship that was swept ashore by super Typhoon Haiyan two weeks ago, in Tacloban city, central Philippines November 22, 2013. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The international aid community needs to ensure that the mistakes of Haiti are not revisited upon the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, according to Leigh Daynes, Executive Director of Doctors of the World.

Typhoon Haiyan hit the east coast of the Philippines on Nov. 8, devastating homes and villages and racking up a death toll of more than 5,000.

Charities need to communicate with each other to avoid an aid overlap and make sure that survivors’ needs are appropriately catered for, Daynes told Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview, adding that this could be accomplished by putting a greater emphasis on recruiting local doctors and health officials in the relief effort.

“Aid and reconstruction programmes will always be much more effective when national staff are involved in their design and delivery, and it’s really important that they are actively engaged in their own relief and recovery effort - and that is a mistake that the international humanitarian community made in Haiti where that wasn’t the case,” Daynes said.  

In 2010 an earthquake rocked the tiny nation of Haiti, levelling the city of Port au Prince, killing as many as 316,000 people and leaving 1.2 million homeless. Rebuilding homes, the healthcare system, the education system and the economy has been a major struggle.

LESSONS LEARNED                                                                                              

After the quake Haiti was hit by a cholera outbreak which killed a further 5,500 people, but measures were then put in place to limit the potential for a further disease outbreak.

“We are also really concerned about the potential outbreak of disease and I know myself that you have to move really quickly to contain the outbreak of diseases,” Daynes said.

“Our emergency medical kits have arrived in Ormoc City. Each kit can treat up to 10,000 people over a three-month period. Those emergency medical kits also contain supplies so that we can deal with outbreaks of cholera if we encounter it, let’s hope not, ” he said in the interview on Friday. 

The World Health Organisation announced last week that it was starting a preventative mass vaccination programme for measles and polio for children under the age of 5 in the area hit by the typhoon.

After the Haitian disaster, international medical organizations rushed to help, and many of the injured were even flown to Florida for medical treatment. But after the initial relief effort Haiti was left with few of its own doctors and a dysfunctional and chaotic healthcare system.

Daynes emphasised the importance of including Filipino medical personnel in the relief effort, which will set the foundation for the long process of rebuilding the healthcare system in affected areas of the Philippines.

“I hope that we’ve learned that lesson and we need to leave a well functioning and sustainable health system in place in the Philippines. Clearly the relief effort is a sprint but the rebuild is a marathon. We will be there for as long as that takes.”

Sexual abuse and rape became endemic in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Women and girls were subjected to violent attacks in overcrowded camps for those left homeless. Amnesty International reported that in the first 150 days after the earthquake more than 250 cases of rape were reported in several refugee camps. 

“The protection and the assistance for women and girls - Haiti is a shocking case in point,” said Daynes. “Let’s ensure that the Philippines is not another Haiti, it’s not another Darfur."   

“We have consistently failed women and girls in emergencies, but low cost, high impact interventions radically transform that situation, for instance, the provision of solar powered lighting so that at night time girls can go to the toilet in safety,” Daynes said.


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