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MSF in Philippines, 2009
Field Staff: 76
Reason for Intervention:
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Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines has been at the heart of an armed conflict between Philippine government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front since the 1970s. In the summer of 2008, between 400,000 and 500,000 people fled the area to escape the violence, and despite the announcement of a ceasefire in July last year, some 300,000 people remain displaced. The country can barely cope with such numbers of displaced people.
MSF provided medical care via mobile clinics and supported existing health structures for an estimated 70,000 displaced people in five camps in Region XII and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Region. Teams focused on helping people who were particularly vulnerable or not well served by local medical centers.
Throughout 2009, MSF provided almost 43,000 consultations including 1,500 for pregnant women.
In March, MSF psychologists started a mental health program to help the many people who were suffering from psychological problems and showing psychosomatic symptoms due to stress. In collaboration with the psychiatric unit in Cotabato hospital in the Mindanao Region, MSF started treating patients with severe mental health disorders. More than 2,100 patients received psychological support and psychiatric treatment.
In September and October last year, the Philippines were hit by a series of typhoons that caused widespread damage and floods in and around the capital Manila, and on the northern island of Luzon.
MSF helped improve living conditions in the camps for those who had been displaced, by building latrines and strengthening hygiene and sanitation services. Mobile clinics were also used to reach people in need of medical care in the camps and surrounding area. In total 4,300 consultations were carried out. Teams used boats to reach parts of the city where people had been cut off by the flood waters.
In northern Luzon, MSF intervened in Ilocos Norte, Cagayan, Pangasinan and Tarlac provinces and conducted more than 3, 400 consultations. In Rosales, where water from local dams flooded and destroyed the surrounding area, MSF helped by distributing relief items, including plastic sheeting, hygiene and construction kits. MSF also assisted the victims of landslides caused by weeks of heavy rains in Benguet.
Ramon, 30 years old
‘Everything happened so quickly. It was terrifying. I was in my house when suddenly I heard a bomb exploding. At first, I didn’t realize what was happening, but later I realized that a bomb had fallen on my house. Outside, everybody was running around, and some people were looking at me strangely. I felt very tired and I was in a lot of pain so I lay down. Later, some people told me that I had been covered with blood and that they had thought I was dead. However, someone was able to feel my heart beating and so they brought me to the health center. I had two pieces of shrapnel in my stomach. The doctors then transferred me to the general hospital in Cotabato where I stayed for nine days.
‘Later, when I was back with my family, I went to the MSF mobile clinic to get some drugs. The doctor advised me to meet a psychologist, which I did. Then I realized that I was still in shock because of what had happened and that I needed support. Now, my wounds still hurt me and I very often think about what I’ve been through, but I am feeling better.’
MSF has worked in the Philippines since 2008.