Our Work in Country
For more than 20 years, Americares has been at work in the Philippines. Following Typhoon Haiyan, one of the worst storms of the century to hit the country, Americares expanded its emergency programs in a commitment to strengthen health care for people in need. An in-country office and warehouse were established and a team assembled to guide the recovery process and build longer term, sustainable community health programs. One of the first areas of concern was health care access in many communities where the only local health facility had been damaged, thus leaving many vulnerable people without access to medicine and clinical services.
The Philippines, a nation of more than 7,000 islands, is ranked among the world’s most disaster-prone countries due to its location on the typhoon belt and the Pacific earthquake rim – known as the “Ring of Fire”. An average of 20 typhoons per year and 21 active volcanoes, along with mudslides, flooding and earthquakes often cause heavy damage, especially to health facilities and other infrastructure, resulting in many injuries and fatalities due to the inaccessibility of vulnerable communities on many of the islands. And when disaster strikes, our in country team responds. In the last year, the team has mobilized immediately to help survivors of Tropical Storm Tembin (Vinta) and Typhoon Kai-Tak.
Deadly Floods in Philippines
Tropical Depression Usman caused flash flooding and landslides affecting around 900,000 people in central Philippines. Authorities reported at least 150 people have died and thousands are still displaced. Disruptions associated with the landslides and flooding were reported limiting access to roads which service rural, isolated areas of the region.
Americares Philippines has responded by providing basic health kits, clean up kits, hygiene kits and water purification supplies to support health facilities and individuals in the affected areas of Northern and Western Samar. Americares also mobilized a medical team and to-date has provided more than 1,000 patient consultations.
The team distributed hundreds of Jerry Cans with Aquatabs (water purification tablets) to three Barangays and several schools. Water in the area is contaminated from the flashfoods.
In the midst of floods and other natural disasters, the Philippines team is responding to a deadly measles outbreak. Thus far, more than 22,900 cases and more than 330 deaths have been reported. The team continues to support the Department of Health to administer vaccinations, support mobile DOH vaccination teams with transportation, distribute educational materials on measles prevention and control and to provide critical supplies to the DOH such as syringes, masks and Vitamin A. Measles is highly contagious so the education and prevention components of the response are of great importance.
Recent Emergency Response Activity
Our current Philippines team response follows closely a response to Typhoon Yutu that struck Luzon in October of 2018.
Previously the Americares Philippines team mounted a relief effort after Super Typhoon Mangkhut (known as Ompong locally) which struck the Philippines with 180 mph winds as the most powerful storm of the season. The team provided emergency medical aid and humanitarian supplies in Northern Luzon.
In addition to emergency aid in other storms, Americares responded to the Mayon Volcano activity where 75,000 were evacuated and some sought shelter in nearly 50 evacuation centers.
And while emergency response operations go forward, our team continues our disaster preparedness project in Leyte Provinnce as we work to help health facilities be ready for disasters.
The emergence of mental health issues in the aftermath of disaster has led Americares to develop a targeted program to improve access to Mental Health and Psychosocial Support services (MHPSS) in three municipalities of northern Cebu. The program trains health workers in identifying general mental health issues and local health providers (Barangay Health Workers) on psychosocial interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders
Overall, the project will strengthen local capacities, advocate for inclusion of mental health in local and regional government priorities, and directly support those living with mental illness through access to medicine and trained health workers. In total, this project will reach 9% of those living in the target municipalities (12,500) and train at least 571 community health workers. Through stronger MHPSS centers in each municipality, trained health workers will be able to provide direct psychosocial support and more quickly identify mental illness for referral and reduce the overall burden from mental illness - leading to stronger, healthier and more productive communities.