Philippines: Reaching Remote Areas Still in Need of Aid

Philippines 2013 © Yann Libessart/MSF

Despite increasing humanitarian aid in typhoon-hit areas of the Philippines, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are still finding villages and towns that have not yet received any aid. MSF’s teams are working in hospitals, running mobile clinics, providing mental health care, and distributing essential relief items and clean drinking water. In Guiuan, 1,200 tents have been distributed and potable water is being provided to over 20,000 people. In the city of Tacloban, MSF has set up a 45-bed inflatable hospital; and in Guiuan, on Samar island, MSF set up a 40-bed tented hospital.

Remote Areas Still in Need of Aid

“While aid has been focused on the severely hit city of Tacloban, many remote areas still remain unassisted,” said Anne Taylor, MSF’s regional emergency coordinator. “Even in places just a few kilometers away, medical services have been extremely limited. In Tolosa, for example, there was only one medical post for a population of 55,000.”

In the small town of Liberty, in eastern-central Leyte, an outreach team found that people, though not badly affected by the typhoon, had been cut off from medical services since Friday, November 8, the day the typhoon struck. The team treated 62 patients in one day. Other MSF teams have had similar experiences in villages around Guiuan on Samar island, and on several of the islands east of Panay.

Mobile Clinics by Road and Sea

MSF is working to address the gaps in health care and aid by running mobile clinics in and around the towns of Ormoc, Santa Fe, Julita, and Tabontabon on Leyte island; in Estancia, Carles, and San Dionisio on Panay island; and in Guiuan in the east of Samar island. Medical teams are also running mobile clinics by boat to the small islands east of Panay and south of Guiuan.

Assessment teams continue to travel to remote areas of Samar island, Panay island, and Leyte island to identify and provide medical aid in villages that have not yet received humanitarian assistance. The most common conditions amongst MSF’s patients are respiratory tract infections, infected wounds, and chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Hospital and Basic Health Care Support

MSF’s inflatable hospital, set up in Tacloban, will serve as the main referral hospital in the area. In its first two days of operation, the hospital team carried out 52 emergency room consultations, 303 outpatient consultations, and 6 surgeries. MSF is also running temporary hospitals in tents in Burauen and Tanauan on Leyte island and in Guiuan on Samar island where the team carries around 300 consultations per day.

MSF teams are also helping to restore medical services at Ministry of Health hospitals and health centers in Tacloban, Santa Fe, and Burauen on Leyte island, Balasan on Panay Island, and Guiuan on Samar island. Teams are providing health care; repairing damaged buildings; providing medical supplies, drugs, and staff; and setting up ambulance services.

Mental Health Care

Many patients are coming to MSF clinics displaying symptoms reflecting the psychological impact of the disaster. Mental health teams are now working in areas of Samar, Leyte, and Panay islands, conducting group and individual sessions, raising awareness about psychological responses to trauma, and training local staff to recognize acute cases.

The early aid response after Typhoon Haiyan struck on November 8, 2013, was delayed because of damaged and congested airports, roads, and seaports, and the scarcity of fuel and vehicles. These difficulties have eased somewhat, and MSF is increasingly able to transport staff and supplies, though logistical constraints remain due to the geography of the area.

MSF now has more than 200 international staff on the ground, supported by local staff, who are working in 4 hospitals and 8 health centers andrunning mobile clinics in 37 locations. From November 8 to 21, MSF medical teams provided nearly 6,500 outpatient consultations, admitted 58 patients in inpatient wards, assisted in 14 deliveries, and performed 220 minor surgical procedures and 400 mental health sessions. 

Setting up the inflatable hospital at Bethany Hospital.
Philippines 2013 © Yann Libessart/MSF