We include Haiyan not only for the unimaginable devastation it caused but as a reminder that when the media attention wanes and the world moves on, the health needs of the people affected will still be great. In the story below, Margaret Aguirre, Communications Director for International Medical Corps, describes the aftermath of Haiyan and the transition from relief to recovery.
On the ground within 24 hours, International Medical Corps was a first responder to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. It wasn’t easy for our emergency response team to reach the hardest-hit, most remote islands. But once we did, it became clear that this was not just a typhoon of record proportions; it was a tsunami, annihilating everything in its path.
There seemed a tragically simple calculus to the storm’s fury: homes made of bamboo were completely flattened, their flimsy tin roofs splayed on top of the fallen timber. In village after village, island after island, as we walked through fields of debris that once stood as towns, a similar scene played out: water and sanitation systems, health care, and livelihoods were decimated.
In communities that had yet to receive any help, our team of medical professionals and water and sanitation experts quickly set up and within minutes began treating long lines of patients—elderly people with wounds from flying debris, children with upper respiratory infections and skin infections from the unhygienic conditions. Working with the Department of Health and humanitarian partners, including Team Rubicon and Medical Teams International, International Medical Corps provided 8,174 health consultations in the first four weeks following the storm.
As the Philippines transitions from relief to recovery, International Medical Corps will continue to provide comprehensive health care, nutrition screening, water and hygiene services, psychosocial support, and training for local health workers. No doubt, the road ahead will be extremely difficult. Yet everywhere we went, we saw communities come together, neighbors provide each other shelter, and people work to lift those next to them who might be more vulnerable. Our job now is to help them become their own best first responders before the next disaster strikes.
For more information about International Medical Corps’ response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines: internationalmedicalcorps.org/typhoon_haiyanDecember 4, 2013