Key medical figures:
• 72,100 outpatient consultations
• 290 surgical interventions
• 29,100 relief kits distributed
The strongest typhoon ever recorded at landfall struck the storm-prone Philippines on 8 November, killing over 6,000 people and displacing more than four million others.
A massive local response had already begun as international aid flowed into the country, including a team from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) who arrived in Cebu on 9 November. Typhoon Haiyan destroyed hospitals and clinics and disrupted the public health system. Assistance was needed to treat the wounded and provide relief over a wide area. It was decided that MSF would fill gaps in emergency care and help rehabilitate hospitals and clinics so services would be available for ongoing healthcare needs. Initially most aid activity was centred around Tacloban, on Leyte island, the main city in the hard-hit Eastern Visayas, which still had a partially functioning airport and one partially functioning hospital. Damaged and blocked roads, fuel shortages and congested airports in the country posed logistical constraints and there were delays in getting supplies to people in need, particularly during the first 10 days. As many aid organisations were present around the city, MSF used trucks, boats, planes and helicopters to reach outlying areas and assess people’s needs. Teams set up medical activities and delivered relief supplies to typhoon survivors on the principal islands of Leyte, Samar and Panay, as well as smaller outlying islands, adapting aid to fill emerging healthcare gaps as the situation evolved. Immediately after the typhoon, MSF provided surgery and wound dressings, and also treated patients presenting with
infected wounds several weeks after the event. Healthcare for people undergoing treatment for chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and kidney failure was also crucial. The psychological impact of the storm itself and of the loss of loved ones and homes meant that there were substantial needs for mental health support.
In the city of Tacloban, MSF erected a 60-bed inflatable hospital with an emergency room and outpatient department, and provided surgical, maternal and mental health services. Teams took mobile clinics around the city to reach people who could not visit the health centres. In Palo district, teams worked in the town of Tanauan, south of Tacloban and in Talosa, distributing essential relief items to 3,000 families In the Burauen area of Leyte, a team supported the district hospital with staff and supplies and ensured that water and waste disposal were in place and meeting health standards. Staff distributed relief supplies such as tents, washing kits and mosquito nets, supplied clean drinking water and offered mental healthcare to people experiencing severe distress. More than 25,200 people received healthcare, 48,500 obtained relief supplies and 11,470 accessed mental health support.
Panay and offshore islands
Teams were based in Carles, Estancia and San Dionisio municipalities on Panay island and also delivered aid to people residing on 21 offshore islands. MSF rehabilitated 13 health facilities along the coastal areas of the Panay mainland and on the offshore islands, to render them functional and able to provide medical services to those in need. On the offshore islands, MSF vaccinated 4,650 children against polio, and 14,990 against measles. Staff distributed more than 11,000 relief kits and food for 11,000 families, as well as over 1.2 million litres of chlorinated water. The typhoon caused an oil spill in the Estancia harbour and a team provided medical care, relief items and some 1,500 tents to people relocated to an evacuation centre, and also assisted vulnerable families in the surrounding area. The Ministry of Health was able to take over Panay activities from MSF in January 2014. Teams had carried out 12,675 medical consultations and given mental health support to 3,290 people.
The Felipe Abrigo Memorial hospital in Guiuan, Samar island, was damaged beyond repair by the typhoon and so MSF set up a 60-bed tent hospital as a temporary replacement, equipped with an operating theatre, delivery room, maternity unit and isolation room. Teams carried out medical consultations in rural health centres on Samar and ran regular mobile clinics on the smaller islands south of Guiuan. Many people were suffering mental health distress and MSF teams offered psychosocial support to adults and children through group and individual therapy sessions. MSF’s water and sanitation experts ensured that there was proper waste disposal, and supplied clean water for up to 20,000 people each day. Tents, cooking equipment and washing and shelter kits were distributed among isolated communities on the four nearby islands of Manicani, Homonhon, Sulangan and Victory, so people could begin to reconstruct their homes. Many acute emergency activities were completed by January 2014, yet teams maintained a strong presence in areas where health services were severely diminished and not yet completely rehabilitated. MSF continued to work out of inflatable medical hospitals providing surgery, inpatient care and psychological support.
No. staff end 2012: 1
Year MSF first worked in the country: 1987