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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

SOS Responds to Typhoon Yolanda Devastation

 You may download the SOS Newsletter Issue 1 here
or download it here.

The Samahang Operasyon Sagip (SOS) immediately convened after the onslaught of Super Typhoon with the aim to bring immediate food relief and medical assistance to survivors. Volunteer doctors, nurses and other health workers were tapped to attend to their medical and food needs. Forty-five volunteer Health Science students from different schools and community health workers from Quezon City, Pasig City and Paranaque City helped the more than 1,500 relief packs for the affected families in Eastern Samar and Western Samar provinces. The relief and medical missions transpired from November 21 to 25, 2013.

A total of 40 individuals actively participated in the relief and medical missions in 14 barangays in the towns of Hernani and General MacArthur in Eastern Samar and Basey, Western Samar. The team was composed of 10 doctors, 2 medical interns, 16 nurses, 4 health workers, 3 volunteers from the Haitian American Nurses Association (HANA) and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), five photographers from the Samahan ng mga Litratista ng Rizal (SLR), 2 representatives of Medico-International and 2 human rights workers. A total of 1,088 patients were served while 1,664 families were given relief packages. Table 1 in page 2 shows a detailed account of survivors reached by the missions.

The medical mission team found the affected community members to be suffering from colds and cough, upper respiratory tract infections, hypertension, arthritis, error of refraction, diarrhea, lower and muculo back pain, skin diseases and injuries. There were also a number of obstetrics cases and pulmonary tuberculosis suspects.

The present situation in the visited areas of Eastern and Western Samar is disturbing. In Hernani town, almost 80 percent of houses were damaged, with more than 200 families in Barangay Batang living in make-shift tents. Typhoon Yolanda inflicted serious economic dislocation to the affected families. Fishing, which is the main source of livelihood were crippled as Typhoon Yolanda either destroyed or swept away fishing boats. Coconut trees were uprooted or snapped; hectares upon hectares of rice and root crops were destroyed.

The devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda once again showed the vulnerability of the people, especially the poor segment of the country’s population to disasters.  Amidst the suffering of millions of people who lost their homes, their loved ones and their livelihood, the Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS) calls on the people to contribute their resources to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. SOS also calls on doctors, nurses and health professionals to lend their talent, time and resources to help alleviate the suffering of our fellow countrymen.

SOS scored the government for its inefficiency and inept leadership in responding to the recent emergency.  It called on the government to:

1. Lift the December deadline set by the Department of Social Work and Development for food relief assistance. Ensure swift and far-reaching food and non-food relief provision to all Yolanda-affected population.

2. Act on rebuilding the lives and livelihood of the affected population by providing:
    •  house repair/reconstruction assistance program to families whose houses were destroyed;
    • livelihood/economic assistance program which includes provision of fishing boats and important fishing paraphernalia such as fishing nets and cooling boxes;
    • agricultural assistance package which includes provision of rice and vegetable seeds, coconut seedlings and important farm implements to resume agricultural activities; livestock dispersal

3. Address the immediate health problems and concerns of the affected population.  Concretely, act on:
    • malnutrition problem especially among children which will be further worsen by Typhoon Yolanda.
    • prevention of epidemic which includes vaccination against cholera, safe and potable water system installation, health and sanitation campaign  infrastructure (health education and building of latrines)
    • attend to the mental health and wellness of the community. 

4. Institute and implement a comprehensive disaster risk reduction program geared at building the capacities of communities in preparing and responding to disasters must be instituted and implemented.  Correspondingly, there must be an increase in the budget for Disaster Risk Reduction. ##

Fact Sheet: Medical-Relief Mission

November 20-25, 2013 

Medical Mission – 1,088 beneficiaries from 5 barangays in the municipality of Hernani and 3 barangays in Municipality of General MacArthur in Eastern Samar province; 6 barangays in Basey, Western Samar.
Relief Distribution operation – 1,664 families from 14 barangays in municipalities of General MacArthur, Hernani, Basey.
The areas covered are mostly far-flung barangays outside the town centers who have received few or no relief / assistance.

3 medical mission teams and 2 relief distribution teams, from a 40-man team with 10 doctors, 16 nurses, 2 medical interns and health workers and volunteers. 

1.  Many barangays especially those far from town centers have received few or no relief assistance from any group, whether government or private. One example is Barangay Cacatmonan in the municipality of Hernani, where the typhoon destroyed all but 1 out of 35 houses. The barangay captain and several counselors, carrying a list of survivors in the barangay, requested that their barangay be given relief goods.
Other survivors lament that only those with high numbers of casualties are prioritized so that their barangays are not given or seldom included as beneficiaries.

2. Some cadavers and debris are still not retrieved and cleared in the barangays.

3.  The survivors are living in most vulnerable conditions:
a. Some are staying in evacuation center in public schools (some barangays in Basey), some in tents made from tarpaulins.
b. Lack of electricity make night time pitch black and movement in the areas difficult and dangerous.
c. Survivors have difficulty cooking food in tin cans using firewood from debris.

4. Major health risks which could lead to serious disease outbreaks were noted:
a. Lack of water supply.
b. Lack of toilet facilities.
c. Lack of shelter.
d. Irregular provision of food.
e. Crowded condition in evacuation areas.

5. Common illnesses include: upper respiratory tract infections, hypertension, arthritis, error of refraction, diarrhea, wound and injuries, skin diseases.

6. Other needs: people verbalized need to reconstruct their houses and desire to start livelihood activities. The people lined-up for construction materials such as nails, saw, hammers.

1. Systematic way to reach out to far-flung areas and provide urgently-needed relief and assistance.
2. Immediate retrieval of cadavers and clearing of debris, both for faster relief efforts and health and psychological recovery of survivors.
3. Immediate and comprehensive health interventions to address potential sources of outbreaks and epidemics. These include immediate clearing of debris, provision of water source, construction of shelter, construction or provision of latrines, provision/assistance in food production. Medical teams and service groups must reach far-flung areas not only those in town centers.
4. Start reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts: provision of construction materials, livelihood, food production, and economic activities.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Media Release: November 27, 2013

References:             Rosalinda C. Tablang     
                     President, Samahang Operasyong Sagip

                      Darby Santiago, M.D.
                      Convenor, Samahang Operasyong Sagip
                      0927-9259413 / (+632) 929-8109

Health disaster group: All is not yet well -- epidemic may soon take over affected communities; call for comprehensive rehabilitation plan

(Philippines) – In its press conference today, disaster health group Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS) criticized the government anew for its inefficiency and inept leadership in responding to Yolanda’s backwash after seeing for themselves the concrete situation of the super typhoon aftermath and its survivors.

Returning from a five-day medical and relief missions in Western and Eastern Samar, the 40-staff team of SOS volunteers reported that massive economic dislocation is experienced in the fourteen (14) barangays of Hernani and Gen. McArthur of Easter Samar and Basey of Western Samar.

Rosalinda C. Tablang, president of SOS said that the main sources of livelihood were gone.  The strong floods swept away or destroyed fishing boats, felled coconut trees, and submerged crops. 

“The people are left with nothing.  It’s been nineteen (19) days since the disaster and the survivors see no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Based on stories from some barangay officials, Tablang said it is “not clear” what the local and national government is planning for the rehabilitation of communities.  “As to how long the makeshift tents in Brgy. Batang in Hernani Eastern Samar will stand to provide shelter to the survivors, nobody knows.  No serious government aid or rehabilitation plan is apparent,” Tablang lamented.

Meanwhile, SOS convenor and medical doctor Darby Santiago warned that another surge of disaster might hit the distraught villages.  “Because of poor sanitation, lack of clean water sources, and absence of latrines, cholera epidemic may soon take over the affected families if immediate health intervention is further delayed,” Santiago shared.

He said that the people’s battle to survive is not yet over.  Epidemics could soon arise if government health authorities do not act soon. 

The SOS medical team was composed of nine (9) medical doctors with different specializations, fifteen (15) nurses, two (2) medical interns, and four (4) health workers.  They served more than 1,000 patients.  The people’s medical conditions ranged from upper respiratory tract infections, hypertension, arthritis, error of refraction, suspected primary tuberculosis, diarrhea, musculo-skeletal pain, and urinary tract infections.  Some obstetric cases were also seen by the OB Gyn doctor of the group.

SOS also slammed the Department of Social Work and Development’s (DSWD) pronouncement to end the food relief provision in December and implement the “cash-for-work” and “food-for-work” program for the survivors of typhoon Yolanda.  Tablang cited an interview aired by a news program to a woman who said she is taking part in the DSWD repacking of relief goods in a DSWD managed warehouse because she hopes to take home 6 kilos of rice given to volunteers like her.  The woman said she needed the rice to feed her family because they only received a relief pack once since the typhoon hit.

“Despite millions of donated cash and goods to the affected populations, skewed government policies make it more difficult for the survivors to receive immediate relief.  Amidst the people’s loss and empty stomachs, the government should provide livelihood and house reconstruction support instead of making people work for donated goods,” said Tablang.

Tablang and Santiago reiterated that at the end of the day, “the survival of the affected population and rehabilitation of communities is the government’s call.”

They called on the Filipino people, as well as health professionals, to share their resources and lend their talent and time to the affected families.

Likewise, SOS demands the government to immediately and decisively (1) continue food and relief distribution; (2) act on rebuilding the lives and livelihood of the affected population; (3) address the immediate health problems and concerns of the affected families; (4) institute and implement a comprehensive disaster risk reduction program geared at building the capacities of communities in preparing and responding to disasters; (5) increase the budget for disaster risk reduction.##

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Volunteers


For two days, volunteers from different walks of life came together to pack donations for 1,500 families in Basey, Western Samar and Hernani and Gen. McArthur, Eastern Samar.  These towns remained underserved by government aid since the super typhoon struck on November 8.  SOS medical and relief teams pushed to Samar today, November 20, to bring assistance.

A family relief pack consist of rice, salt, mung beans, canned goods, sugar, and dried fish 

Volunteers weigh 8 kilos of rice to be packed.  In the background are water cans to be distributed with the family packs.

A health worker ensures that the family packs are securely tied.

Volunteers from all walks of life come together at the warehouse provided by the Capitol Medical Center in Quezon Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines

Nars ng Bayan and Health Students Action staff in action.

Community volunteers from Quezon City, Philippines.

Each blue bag holds a relief pack good for a family of 6 for 2-3 days.  

Relief packs and water cans for the affected families in Samar.

Community Health Workers from Pasig join in solidarity by packing dried fish to be included in the relief packs.

Monday, November 18, 2013

SOS volunteers to conduct medical and relief mission in Eastern Samar

When Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS) signaled the alarm to help the people of Samar, scores of volunteers from different fields enlisted to take their part in the national and international effort to aid the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Basing from reports that some towns in Eastern and Western Samar are still unreached by government aid as of this writing, the SOS, in coordination with its partners in Samar Island, identified three (3) areas to bring immediate relief and medical aid: General McArthur and Hernani in Eastern Samar and, Basey in Western Samar. SOS teams will be leaving for Samar on November 20 and stay on until the 25th.

“Despite the propensity of damage and loss to lives, adequate government aid has not reached the peoples of these three towns,” said Rosalinda C. Tablang, president of SOS.  She added that inefficiency and bureaucratic processes has “gotten in the way of delivering food and medicines that are urgently needed” in these towns among others.

Tablang shared that their medical and relief delivery teams plan to distribute relief packs and conduct medical and minor surgery services among the affected families and individuals in said towns.  They hope to bring relief and medical aid to more than 1,500 families there.

The medical team is composed of 10 medical doctors from different specialties, registered nurses, and health workers.  The relief delivery team on the other hand is composed of volunteers from Manila, representatives of health NGOs and a journalist and private group Samahan ng mga Litratista sa Rizal (SLR Camera Club).  Medico International, a German-based NGO will also be joining the relief and medical mission.

SOS, established in 1990 as a response to the effects of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, said that the mission will only be the first among several efforts that they will do to help the people of Samar.

“With this initial visit, we also hope to draw up the master plan for the rehabilitation of the said communities in the months to come.  Much will be based on the initial assessment from the ground,” Tablang said.

“What SOS and its volunteers do is to bring aid to the people from the people which will help them carry on with what is left.  However, apart from bringing aid, the task of rebuilding communities anew lies in the hand of the state because it is their primary responsibility and they have all the resources to realize the rebuilding program.  But this requires resolve and political will.  Unfortunately, the government lacks that,” Tablang ended.

Rosalinda C. Tablang - 0927-9259413 | (+632)929-8109

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Yolanda Aftermath is a Defining Moment for the Aquino Administration

Media Release 
14 November 2013

Reference: Rosalinda C. Tablang – 0927-9259413 / (+632) 929-8109
President, Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS)

It’s all too obvious, PNoy’s cabinet is working overtime in glossing over the truth about the real situation in Typhoon Yolanda-ravaged regions to cover up for the Philippine government’s incapacity and inefficiency in preparing and responding to the worst disaster to hit the nation yet.

This is Samahang Operasyong Sagip’s (SOS) analysis to the all too many parrots (read: cabinet members)singing one song in defense of PNoy’s inadequacy to respond to millions of affected populations.

SOS president Rosalinda C. Tablang said that it is too immature of the government to use the argument that “nobody expected the effect to be of this magnitude.” Hence, the justification for the snail-paced and bureaucratic response.

“In a disaster situation like this, the national government is the last entity that we need to hear appalled by the density of the aftermath,” Tablang responded.

She specified that it is the national government’s task to “prepare for the worst and have all contingencies on board” because weather authorities and media groups have been warning of Typhoon Yolanda’s strength days before it hit the Philippine soil.

Tablang also slammed Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras for saying “I don’t think it is an acid test of this administration. This is an acid test of Filipino people. How well we handle this crisis will matter a lot. Yes, there will be challenges but we will move on.”

“To say that this is not an acid test for the Aquino administration is blatant denial of the truth. PNoy’s government has been through typhoons Sendong, Pablo, and habagat and the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in the Visayas. He has gone through all of these disasters with the same inefficiency as what is seen in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda,” she added.

Whether they like it or not, this is a defining moment of the Aquino administration, Tablang said.

“We would like to remind the Aquino government that what the survivors need are food, water, shelter, sincere and concrete assurance and not empty promises,” Tablang ended.##