‘No sign of abating’

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

MANY people who suffered serious injuries when super typhoon Yolanda devastated the central Philippines have had to wait nearly a month for treatment, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

“With some of the more remote areas now accessible, we’re... seeing a second wave of people reaching hospitals with injuries,” WHO’s Philippine representative, Julie Hall, said in a statement nearly four weeks after the disaster.

Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) destroyed some local hospitals, debris blocking access to many of those still working, when it slashed across the Visayas on Nov. 8, requiring the air evacuation of some of the injured to Manila and other cities.

The government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council now lists 26,233 people injured, which the WHO Western Pacific in Manila said were the same figures it is using.


The official figure had stood at just 12,500 in mid-November, a week after the typhoon swept out of the region.

The official death toll stands at 5,680, with 1,779 other people listed as missing.

“Hospitals in Manila and across the affected region are already treating around 20 people with spinal cord injuries, dozens with amputations and many more with serious fractures,” Hall said.

The United Nations refugee agency has launched a fresh appeal for emergency aid.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it now needs US$19.2 million (about P839 million) to address “primary protection issues” for devastated communities, more than double the $8.3 million (P362 million) it has raised so far.

“Almost a month after the typhoon, its effects show no sign of abating,” said Bernard Kerblat, UNHCR representative in the Philippines.

“Today, more than ever, protection and humanitarian assistance are needed to ensure that no more lives will be taken by the consequences of this devastating typhoon.”

New PWDs

WHO is working with the Department of Health (DOH) on the emergency health response, sending more than 60 foreign medical teams to storm-hit towns to revive medical services, as well as provide rehabilitation therapy and mental health assistance, Hall added.

Foreign governments and international aid organizations also put up field hospitals and other medical facilities in some of the worst-hit areas.

The country is struck by about 20 typhoons and tropical storms each year, but Yolanda’s winds and tsunami-like storm surges made it stand out for sheer ferocity.

Hall warned that disasters like Yolanda/Haiyan can create a new generation of people with disabilities when the injured do not always have timely access to medical and rehabilitation services.

The WHO is also concerned about the welfare of those already living with disabilities prior to the disaster, who are more vulnerable in emergencies, are less able to escape from hazards, and often lose essential medications or assistive devices, Hall said.

New appeal

“Items like glasses, hearing aids and wheel chairs were swept away by the storm or left behind by people trying to flee,” Hall said.

“One can only imagine the terror of being caught in a storm of this magnitude and not being able to run for cover or see a path to safety.”

Tens of thousands of families remain displaced and an estimated 5,000 people are believed to be fleeing the hard-hit central islands of Leyte and Samar every day for Manila and Cebu, Kerblat of the UNHCR said in a statement.

The beefed-up aid appeal launched by the refugee agency is aimed at distributing more life-saving supplies, including 98,600 plastic sheets, 7,500 tents and 19,000 solar lanterns, among other items.

The UN announced last week that it would shortly increase its overall appeal, which currently stands at a total of $348 million (about P15.2 billion), of which about half has been raised.

“This new (UNHCR) appeal will form part of the upcoming UN aid appeal,” Johanna Morden, external relations associate for the UNHCR told Agence France Presse. (AFP)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 04, 2013.

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