More than a month after the typhoon swept away communities in eastern Mindanao and left more than 1,800 people dead or missing, needs are still immense. In the areas hardest hit, in Davao Oriental province, almost 95 per cent of the roads, houses and crops have been destroyed. The ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross worked hard to respond to the emergency as it occurred, and are now attending to food, clean water, shelter, health care and other needs with the aim of helping people resume their normal lives.
The ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross have scaled up joint operations after their initial emergency response. These efforts have focused on:
● setting up a field clinic in Baganga to respond to the most urgent needs until normal facilities are fully functional again;
● making supplies available so that people can take immediate steps to remedy their lack of shelter; and
● providing food, potable water and basic household items to the neediest so that they can concentrate on rebuilding their lives.
Enhancing local health care
"Most of the health facilities in Baganga were either damaged or totally destroyed," said Dr Gundula Epp-Graak, who works at the newly established Red Cross Basic Health-care Unit in Baganga, a community of more than 53,000 people. "We hope to bring back the level of medical services that existed before typhoon Bopha swept the area."
Since it opened on 3 January, the health-care unit has already attended to more than 800 patients, and is now receiving 100 to 120 patients a day. Most of the consultations are related to acute respiratory infections, fever, acute watery diarrhoea, skin diseases and open wounds. Among those being treated are people with chronic diseases who have run out of their usual medications. Owing to the widespread damage caused by the typhoon, they face a difficult time obtaining more of the drugs they need, which adds to the high level of stress they are already coping with as they try to rebuild their lives.
"Many of them do not have enough money any more to buy their drugs in the local pharmacy," said Dr Epp-Graak.
The medical staff at the health-care unit have also been treating many women and children, like Liezel Julian and her seven-month-old infant, who both had a bad cough, cold and fever. After hearing about the unit from a tricycle (tuk-tuk) driver, mother and baby went to receive medical treatment.
"I am very happy that the Red Cross is here giving us this service for free. We lost everything during the typhoon – our house, livelihood, even food to eat," said Liezel.
The ICRC, in cooperation with the Philippine Red Cross, has set up a health-care unit in Baganga municipality in Davao Oriental province to attend to the pressing needs of the people around the area. The clinic, made up of six tents, is being supported by the Japanese, Norwegian, German, Canadian, Hong Kong and Finnish Red Cross national societies.
The ICRC has provided construction materials to build the Philippine Red Cross's advanced medical post, which is also providing much-needed medical care to people affected by the typhoon in Baganga.
Providing food and shelter
Given the scale of the disaster, the ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross decided to give priority in their initial emergency response to providing food and some basic household supplies. By mid-January, the organizations had already provided a one-month supply of food and cooking pots, jerrycans, mosquito nets, soap and tarpaulins for over 280,000 people in the three hardest-hit provinces of Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Surigao del Sur. Additional distributions of food have begun in the provinces and will continue over the coming weeks.
"I lost three of my relatives – my brother, his wife and my niece – during the typhoon. Our house was also completely destroyed. Three of us were able to make it out alive," said Amalia Ravezo, 52, of Boston municipality in Davao Oriental.
"Now we are trying to rebuild from scratch, and the relief items we received from the Red Cross have really helped – especially the tarpaulins, which protect us from the winds," said Ravezo. Shelter kits, which include nails, hammer and wires, have been distributed to 54,000 people in Boston and Cateel municipalities in Davao Oriental.
After the typhoon, detainees in Compostela Valley provincial jail were left with damaged facilities and without water and electricity. The ICRC, which monitors the treatment and living conditions of detainees, and had been working in the area for decades, donated building materials to help repair damage in the jail.
Improving access to clean water
In Cateel and Baganga, two municipalities of Davao Oriental, around 19,000 people have already benefited from clean drinking-water stations set up by the ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross and from water delivered by truck to eight barangays (villages).
The ICRC has also donated materials for the repair of the water systems in Cateel and Baganga, which will benefit an additional 6,500 people. The ICRC has likewise provided Compostela Valley Provincial Hospital and New Bataan Rural Health Unit in Compostela Valley with supplies needed to repair severely damaged water pipelines.
Number of beneficiaries of food, household items and tarpaulins (as of 13 January 2013):
New Bataan, Compostela Valley: nearly 56,000 people
Lingig, Surigao del Sur: nearly 16,000 people
Cateel, Davao Oriental: nearly 71,000 people
Boston, Davao Oriental: nearly 30,000 people
Baganga, Davao Oriental: over 111,000 people
Total: over 280,000 people
Cynthia Lee, ICRC Manila, tel: +63 918 907 2125
Philippe Stoll, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 31 40 or +41 79 536 92 49