Children of the Storm in Benowangan
WORLD NEWS - During the third week of her internship in Manila, our 21bis-reporter Elisse was asked to join the Task Force Children of the Storm on a medical mission to Benowangan. The right to health is something she cares about deeply, so of course she said yes.
Task Force Children of the Storm (TFCOS) was formed in 2009 to provide medical, dental and psychosocial first aid to disaster-stricken communities and children. It consists of five child-focused non-governmental organizations and institutions, all based in Manila. After supertyphoon Haiyan/Yolanda struck in November 2013, TFCOS decided to focus its attention on Samar. The organization undertakes medical missions, so-called Health Camps, to support survivors in areas that are hard to reach. Under the name ‘TABANG: Rebuilding the Lives of Typhoon Haiyan Survivors in Samar’, the project was born. The government of Tuscany and ARCI Tuscany, a people’s organization, are co-funding the project because they want to show their support.
No money, no relief
The third Health Camp would be implemented in Borongan. From March 23 until March 25, the residents of different communities would finally receive the medical help they needed so badly. The previous Health Camps were held in Lope De Vega (May 2014) and Paranas (August 2014).
Before typhoon Yolanda the residents of Borongan were never hungry. They had always been self-sufficient, growing their own rice, corn and coconut. The situation after Yolanda is different. Their crops and farms were destroyed, families were torn apart. People were traumatized by the experience. More than 700 families in the area were affected by typhoon Yolanda and Ruby. One classroom in the primary school of Benowangan still doesn't have a new roof. The reason is simple: there's no money. What makes things even worse, is that the people have experienced more illnesses since they are thrown into more poverty. And because of the poverty and the fact that the communities are hard to reach, they have a hard time consulting doctors and going to the hospital. Moreover, they have only received support for relief and rehabilitation from the government once after November 2013. Among the most common illnesses that are faced by the residents are colds, fevers, chest pains, tuberculosis, rheumatism and gastro intestinal diseases. Most of these illnesses are treatable provided that the patients are followed closely by medical professionals.
First medical consultation
With the assistance of a small team of doctors, nurses and (local) volunteers TFCOS managed to help 817 people over two days. The patients originated from five different barangays (what we would call small villages). 404 patients consulted the doctor, 296 children were helped by a pediatrician. Over 74 residents received dental aid, and 43 boys got circumcised. TFCOS also distributed medicine to those who had received a prescription by the doctors.
What struck the doctors and nurses most, was that some of these children and adults have never had a medical consultation before. The general practitioner, doctor Sunsunla, testifies: 'An 18-year-old girl came to see me. She was approximately eight months pregnant. She complained about pain in her legs, but didn’t even ask me to perform a gynaecological check-up. She had only had one prenatal examination before. I’m happy that I was able to help so many patients in only two days. However, it’s obvious that the residents in these areas need more medical support and need to be examinated regularly.'
Jacq Ruiz is one of the staff members of Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), who helped organize the project. 'The Task Force Children of the Storm will continue to fight the right to health. We are doing everything we can to ensure these people’s health. We just hope we can make a difference.'
Text and photos: Elisse Lenaars