Typhoon Haiyan hit the Visayas Region of the Philippines with wind speeds equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane. The strongest storm of 2013, Haiyan devastated parts of Leyte, Panay, and Samar Islands, causing over 6,200 deaths, affecting 14 million people, damaging infrastructure, disrupting livelihoods, and halting agricultural production.
As International Medical Corps rapidly deployed an Emergency Response Team, International Health Partners – UK (IHP-UK) immediately reached out to offer lifesaving Doctors’ Travel Packs. With IHP-UK’s support, we flew a pallet of nine Doctors’ Travel Packs into our logistics hub in Cebu, and then followed up with a second shipment of nine more packs a few weeks later. Each Doctors’ Travel Pack contains over 60 of the most essential medicines for an emergency setting – including lifesaving antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, analgesics, and medicines for other acute conditions. Altogether, these packs contain enough medicine to administer over 18,000 treatments.
International Medical Corps arrived in Tacloban, Leyte on November 18th and immediately began assessing the situation, coordinating with local authorities and international actors, and identifying the most urgent health needs. With the majority of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) initially focused on Tacloban City, International Medical Corps ventured further south in Leyte, basing its efforts in seven of the most devastated and underserved municipalities. With support from IHP-UK, International Medical Corps worked with Stanford University, Massachusetts General Hospital and Medical Teams International to mobilize mobile medical units and provide essential medicines, supplies, primary and emergency care, and mental health and psychosocial support to underserved municipalities. From November 20-December 21, International Medical Corps mobile medical teams conducted over 14,000 consultations in 3 hard-hit regions.
Three months after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Visayas Region, Nurse Evangeline Matoza of the MacArthur, Leyte Rural Health Unit (RHU) describes the challenges that her facility faced in caring for the 19,000 citizens of her city. “Right after the typhoon hit,” Nurse Matoza says, “we went to the places where our patients had been evacuated… to the high school and the municipal hall. There were so many people that needed care, mostly for lacerations and other open wounds.”
Yet while the number of patients increased, Nurse Matoza and her colleagues were faced with dwindling supplies: “The main problem was the drug supply — we consumed our supply of antibiotics and the first aid supplies within three days.” Relief came through government and NGO systems, but the health workers at MacArthur RHU still struggled to keep up with the high demand for health care supplies. “A few days after the typhoon, we received our first shipment of much-needed drugs and water purifiers,” she says, “but it was still not enough.”
“That’s why we were so grateful when the mobile medical units started,” Nurse Matoza continues. “International Medical Corps and other NGOs really helped ease the burden on us. When your teams came, they would go directly to the barangays (communities), and reach the injured people that we could not reach.” As her community moves from emergency response to building a more sustainable recovery, Nurse Matoza is grateful for the ongoing support of organizations like International Medical Corps: “You gave us supplies that we are still using to care for our patients. We need to do this to heal our community.”
Nurse Matoza continues, “After the typhoon, there was no one we could refer our patients to. I had one post-partum patient with complications, we thought that she might have eclampsia. Normally, I would send her to the hospital, but we had no way to get her there. So we cared for her ourselves, and we are proud to say that she is doing fine now. We are grateful that you helped us offer this kind of care.”
IHP-UK’s quick action and rapid donations allowed International Medical Corps to provide lifesaving medical care where those affected by Typhoon Haiyan needed it the most.