Climate Change

WHO supporting Philippines Government with arrival of medical supplies after Typhoon Haiyan

Té / 12 November 2013

Field hospitals, medical personnel, medicines and other medical supplies are arriving in the Philippines as countries and nongovernmental organizations around the world come to the support of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. In support of the Government of the Philippines, the World Health Organization (WHO) is coordinating all health-related aspects of the emergency response to ensure the supplies are moved quickly to where health facilities and supplies are most damaged, such as Tacloban, Cebu and the west coast of Leyte.

WHO and its staff are working around the clock to support the Government in coordinating the incoming relief supplies from more than 30 international humanitarian health organizations to ensure there is minimum duplication of materials and medicines arriving at any one location, and that hospitals, personnel and supplies get as quickly as possible to those places where they are needed most.

Within three days of Typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines, field hospitals with medical teams from Belgium, Japan, Israel and Norway are currently on the ground. More teams from Australia and Germany are expected today and tomorrow. Other country governments and nongovernmental organizations that have pledged their support include: Canada, Finland, Indonesia, Hungary, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Viet Nam. The field hospitals will be set up at locations where local hospitals have been destroyed. They are fully self-sufficient—bringing all of their own food, water, electricity, medical supplies and personnel.

The health needs in this disaster are significant. In addition to responding to injuries and trauma, “regular” health needs will also need to be met in very challenging circumstances. For instance, it is expected that 12 000 babies will be born this month in the affected areas. People with noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes or heart disease will need to continue receiving their regular medication. WHO is working with the Government and partners to provide necessary assistance.

WHO has already deployed medicines and supplies to perform 400 surgeries and cover the basic health needs of 120 000 people for one month. Special diarrhoeal disease kits with medicines and supplies to treat 3000 cases of acute diarrhoea are also en route, since contaminated water is a frequent cause of diarrhoea.

With another tropical storm expected to hit the Philippines later this week, the need for safe water and sanitation facilities is critical. WHO is working with other humanitarian organizations to secure urgently needed water purification tablets.

Crowded living conditions and contaminated drinking water can lead to the spread of infectious diseases which can exacerbate health problems. The key is catching these diseases early before they can spread. WHO is also helping the Government to strengthen its early warning alert and response network (EWARN) to rapidly detect disease outbreaks and other public health threats.

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