Super Typhoon Haiyan – possibly the most powerful storm ever recorded—dealt a massive blow to the Philippines. Torrential rains, 15 foot storm surge and up to 195 mph sustained winds unleashed widespread devastation, power outages and landslides across the Visayas Islands. The storm affected an estimated 16 million people, killed over 6,000, displaced some 4 million and damaged or destroyed as many as 2,000 health centers, hospitals and clinics. It also resulted in heavy damage to other public infrastructure including community centers and schools.
Within 72 hours, our Emergency team was on the ground coordinating aid deliveries and assessing damage to begin our comprehensive response to save lives, restore health care, and build a more resilient health system for survivors. Our response of $21 million in medical and humanitarian aid to partners working in the hardest hit areas focused on two areas:
Emergency shipments provided enough medicines to fill 1 million prescriptions and 1.3 million relief supplies(bandages, nutritional supplements, blankets and other medical supplies) for hospitals and health centers in the hardest-hit areas, as well as direct support for volunteer medical teams providing lifesaving care to typhoon survivors.
Emergency funding was also provided for project support including the restoration of dozens of health care facilities, mental health training, and to procure relief supplies and humanitarian aid for survivors in need.
AmeriCares now maintains a team in the Philippines providing ongoing assistance, disaster risk reduction and health system support programs. We are currently working to build long-term, sustainable improvements in the health system and services.
Restore and strengthen health services: Supported medical teams caring for displaced survivors, transported urgent-care patients and provided equipment and supplies to re-open health centers. We now supply health centers and work with community leaders and health officials to prepare for future emergencies.
Rebuild health facilities: Reconstruction has been completed on 83 facilities in three regions, restoring access to health services for close to 2 million patients. We have worked with the Philippines Department of Health and local partners to rebuild health facilities to withstand future disasters. To this end, we supplied 16 health facilities with generators so that they can continue to provide services when power is lost during a disaster.
Building healthier futures for affected communities: Providing training to expand health workers’ skills in the areas of mental health and psychosocial support, malnutrition surveillance and disaster preparedness skills. We have already trained over 2,300 health workers and community leaders to provide mental health services to survivors facing trauma and loss after the deadly storm. More than 130,000 people now have access to improved mental health services.
We have made significant progress towards restoring and enhancing health services and rebuilding health facilities. We are committed to working alongside our partners in the Philippines for the long term.
On November 12, four days after Typhoon Haiyan, I was on a plane to the Philippines. Our emergency response team had tracked the typhoon for days and when we heard the initial damage reports, we grabbed our bags and headed out.
Because continuity of health care is crucial to save lives and prevent the spread of disease, our team coordinated with the government and health partners to restore health services.