Following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, International Medical Corps is operating four mobile medical units (MMUs) in devastated communities in Guiuan, Medellin, Homonhon Island and Hernani. Ten days after the catastrophic storm made landfall, many urban areas reportedly now have access to sufficient relief services, but government officials have requested that humanitarian agencies continue to explore needs in more rural and harder-to-access regions. By working through MMUs, International Medical Corps is providing critical health services on remote islands where families are struggling to access medical care and basic resources like food, clean drinking water and vital medications.
When International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team – consisting of medical staff and water and sanitation experts – landed on the remote island of Guiuan, it was met by hundreds of people waiting on the tarmac for medical care, food and water. The team was able to immediately provide emergency medical services and deliver critical supplies. On Homonhon Island, off eastern Samar, International Medical Corps is treating patients for injuries caused by storm-debris and respiratory infections. The community had no assistance prior to the organization’s arrival, and the hospital has been without a physician for over a year. International Medical Corps is also providing health care to the injured and ill in Hernani, which was completely destroyed except for a few concrete buildings. Due to contaminated water, there is a high risk of infectious disease outbreaks throughout storm-affected areas. The Emergency Response Team has seen an increase in diarrheal disease and expects to see an increase in dengue fever, tetanus and the measles.
Typhoon Haiyan, equivalent to a category 5 hurricane, has affected an estimated 12.9 million people in the Philippines. The storm, which made landfall on November 8, caused widespread devastation, displacing 4 million people and destroying 1 million houses (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). The provision of health services and access to safe water continue to be top priorities for the affected regions, as delivery of relief has been hampered by fuel shortages as well as congested road and air traffic. Over 370,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women are in need of prenatal, postnatal, and child health care, while 1.5 million children under 5 are at risk of acute malnutrition. The desperate need for water, sanitation and hygiene interventions persists.
As part of its comprehensive health response, International Medical Corps will continue to scale up its health services, incorporating water, sanitation and hygiene interventions, as well as mental health, reproductive health, nutrition, and gender-based violence protection activities in response to arising needs.
Many areas in the path of the storm are still recovering from a recent 7.2 earthquake that hit the region on October 15, increasing the risk of casualties and worsening potential destruction. The recent earthquake had already stretched national emergency response teams, leaving the potential for a large-scale humanitarian crisis. International Medical Corps has been a first-responder to numerous natural disasters in southeast Asia, including Cyclone Phailin in India in October, the tsunami in Japan 2 years ago, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.