Emergency health kits reach strained medical facilities in the Philippines
By Gregor Henneka
Getting emergency health supplies to remote clinics is one way UNICEF has supported communities recovering from the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda.
ESTANCIA, Philippines, 22 January 2014 – Demar John, 7 months old, is at a Rural Health Unit (RHU) in the central Philippines town of Estancia with his mother Claris, 23. "He has frequent cough. For five days, he is already coughing, so we came for a consultation," says Claris.
"Our house in Barangay Daculan was destroyed because of Yolanda," she says, referring to the local name for Typhoon Haiyan, which tore through the region in November. "We are now staying in a tent."
The typhoon brought a steep rise in the number of patients coming to clinics like this one, explains Judith Dalton, a nurse at the RHU. "After the typhoon, we have met many cases. Lacerated wounds, bruises, and all kinds of wounds. Among the most common cases also are respiratory infections," she says. "Before the typhoon, our health unit had about 40 to 50 patients a day. But since, every day we have more than 100."
Such an increase puts enormous strain on the health staff – and on supplies. UNICEF has helped address potential shortages through the distribution of emergency health kits, which contain equipment and supplies for a health post to care for 10,000 people for three months, on average.
Almost one-third of the people affected by Typhoon Yolanda live on Panay Island. In Estancia, in the far north-east corner of Panay Island, 118 families are still living in tents in an evacuation centre, and thousands are staying in damaged houses. UNICEF opened a field office in Roxas City in the northern part of the island to assist affected people in coping with the impact of the typhoon.
"Boxes of medicines were brought from UNICEF, and all the medicines were given free to all the patients to cater for their medications," Ms. Dalton says. "Most commonly we are using the antibiotics and the pain relievers, and sometimes the suturing. That's what we mostly needed for the wounds and for respiratory infection medicines."
The emergency health kits contain essential medical devices such as bandages, stethoscopes, thermometers and medical scissors, as well as a selection of drugs typically in high demand in emergency situations. Each kit costs approximately USD8,000.
"The health kits have had quite a journey," says Dr. Kambiz Hamedanizade, a Health Specialist with UNICEF Philippines. "They came from our supply division in Copenhagen. With the help of KLM [national airline of the Netherlands], they have been flown to Cebu, the hub for our supplies distribution. From Cebu, they came by truck and ferry to reach us."
Dr. Hamedanizadeh explains that distribution of the kits is determined by the size of the affected population and the number of RHUs in the area.
"We made sure that each RHU in the four affected provinces receives at least one comprehensive kit," he says. "In total, we distributed 41 health kits, so we can say that UNICEF is covering 410,000 people for three months."
The emergency health kits were among the 100 tons of supplies flown to Cebu on 22 November, only two weeks after the typhoon, on a flight provided free of charge by KLM – together with school-in-a-box kits, tents for temporary learning spaces and other urgent supplies.
Dr. Hamedanizade is a UNICEF Health Specialist on secondment from NorCap, the Norwegian Capacity operated by the Norwegian Refugee Council and funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.