Change for the better is yet to come for victims of Typhoon Yolanda, three months after the disaster. Hunger, homelessness, loss of livelihood, and an uncertain future loom over those who have survived.
Thus, the SamahangOperasyongSagip continues its efforts to help rebuild what they have lost.
As 2014 was quickly welcomed by Typhoon Agaton ravaging through parts of Visayas and Mindanao, the SOS team decided to pave through the wet and cold weather to push through with the medical missions from January 17 to 21.
The relief operations, meanwhile, were rescheduled to January 26 to 27 due to delay in the transport of the relief goods and construction materials. This delay was due to the temporary ceasing of operations of the Matnog Port in Sorsogon.
The fourth medical missions were conducted in two municipalities of Leyte—Carigara and Jaro. A total of 33 individuals joined the team. They were divided into two groups, one for the medical mission while the other for the psycho-social therapy sessions. There were five doctors, five nurses, two physician’s aids, and one acupuncturist for the medical mission team.
Meanwhile, there were six senior behavior science students, two counselors, and two social workers for the psycho-social therapy team. Staff members from partner organizations also helped with medical and psycho-social therapy missions.
These included the Bridge Builder Foundation, Council for Health and Development, Community Medicine Foundation, Health Empowerment and Action in Leyte and Samar, Health Municipal Partners Association of Carigara, Learn- CENE, Municipal Farmers’ Association of Carigara, and University of the Philippines-Manila Department of Behavioral Science.
SOS focused its support to Barangay Canlampay and Barangay Rubas, both interior communities that have received few or no relief and medical assistance, were chosen for the medical missions. Barangay Canlampay can be found in the Carigara, a second class municipality in Leyte.
As of 2010, Carigara’s population is 47,444. It is subdivided in 49 barangays whose main economic activities are agricultural. Barangay Rubas, meanwhile, is located in Jaro, a third-class municipality in Leyte. As of 2010, Jaro’s population is at 39,577 individuals in its 46 barangays. Like Carigara, its main economic activities are agricultural.
A total of 573 patients hailing from 7 barangays of Canlampay, Caghalo, Upper Hiraan, Liboc, Cutag, Hiloctogan and Libo in the municipality of Carigarawere treated in Barangay Canlampay. Meanwhile, 273 from Barangay Rubasin the municipality of Jarowere served.
The most common medical cases included upper respiratory tract infections, hypertension, skin diseases (scabies being the most prevalent), and anxiety due to stress.
The medical mission team noted that the high cases of hypertension among patients were mainly due to the high salt diet (the patients have been eating dried fish and canned goods since Typhoon Yolanda) and stress (due to economic worries and the non-stop rains that reminded them of TyphoonYolanda’s destruction).
Psycho-social therapy sessions among children and mothers were also conducted by the team while the medical mission was ongoing. The psycho-social team was further divided into three groups, two of which were assigned to the children while one for the women.[pq]To help victims process their experience from the Typhoon Yolanda event, therapy sessions consisted of play activities, experience sharing, and exercise methods.[/pq]
Three individuals, referred by the medical mission team, were provided psycho-social counseling.
As in the previous relief and medical missions, major health risks such as the lack of potable water supply, lack of electricity, and nails and pointed objects in debris were noted. Stress, as an effect of the Yolanda aftermath , and its correlation to hypertension cases were also noted.
Meanwhile, the relief operations were conducted in three municipalities of Leyte. A total of 745 families in Barangay Langit (300), Barangay Salvacion (317) and Barangay Tabanguhay (128) in the municipality of Alang-alang; 130 families in Barangay San Roque in the municipality of Tunga; and 974 families in Barangay Canlampay (293), Barangay Paglaum (113), BarangayCaghalo (307), BarangayBarayong (63) and BarangayHiloktogan (198) in the municipality of Carigara were given family packs, construction materials, pots, and seedlings.
Assistance is still greatly needed, especially in the building of homes and recovering of lost livelihood. Empowerment of the people, through increased participation in the planning and actual implementation processes, is important to ensure relevance of programs.
In solidarity with the newly-formed People’s Surge, the broad alliance of survivors, the organizations and individuals for the Yolanda victims, SOS supports the following:
People’s Surge Demands
1. Provide P40,000 immediate financial relief to every affected family. This is based on the framework that relief distribution has been insufficient and rehabilitation plan is uncertain.This amount only covers for at least two months of decent living for a family of six in the Eastern Visayas Region prior to the typhoon.
2. Scrap the ‘no-build zone’ policy that enforces outright land grabbing, effective demolition and eviction of the victims from their homes and livelihood. Provide them with free and adequate housing,sufficient supply of clean water and provision for electricity.
3. Sustain the distribution of relief assistance of food and water to the victims both in the urban and rural communities until such time that their economic lives are relatively stable and recovered.
4. Provide financial subsidy or monetary relief to the affected families in farming and fishing communities especially to those whose subsistence and livelihoods primarily depend on agriculture.
5. Impose price controls on basic commodities and moratorium on oil, power and water rate hikes.
6. Facilitate a speedy restoration and access to vital public utilities such as water; power; transportation and communication installations in severely affected areas. Provide alternatives such as solar panels and the like as deemed necessary.
7. Immediately pull out local and foreign military forces and suspend all counter-insurgency programs in typhoon-struck urban and rural areas. The continuing presence of these military forces causes anxiety and economic sabotage and thus intensifies hunger and poverty especially in remote areas where farmers are constrained from tending their farms for fear of military harassments. Re-channel the budget allocation for defense to a pro-people relief and rehabilitation program instead.
8. Provide immediate employment and livelihood for the affected families to arrest the deepening hunger and poverty among them.
9. Hold public consultations in crafting the rehabilitation and reconstruction plan and ensure that the victims, not the big businesses and landlords, are at the core of this plan. Ensure transparency and accountability during implementation.
10. Provide adequate assistance and speed up t he rehabilitation of the agricultural sector to ensure food security and restore the livelihood of affected families.
11. Hasten the repair and reconstruction of public hospitals and ensure free access, especially to indigents and victims.
12. Hasten the repair and reconstruction of schools, provide adequate educational assistance to basic education and ensure free matriculation for public higher educational institutions.
13. Provide adequate assistance to the surviving families for the loss of lives, property, and livelihood.
14. Implement a one-year tax moratorium (such as business, income, and real property tax) that aims to benefit local businesses and small entrepreneurs in severely affected areas.
15. Allocate additional funds to local government units in Yolanda-stricken areas that would serve as special calamity funds to facilitate the prompt delivery of basic social services.Ensure transparency and accountability in its implementation.
16. Review all government policies that are destructive to people’s lives and the environment such as mining policies and related anti-people policies. Revisit the laws on disaster risk preparedness and response.
17. Implement genuine agrarian reform under the auspices of a national industrialization program as a key solution to mass poverty and its consequent people’s vulnerability to disasters and climate change impacts.
18. Hold the Aquino government criminally liable for its negligence in ensuring the safety and welfare of its people. Hold the Aquino government responsible for its ineptness and incompetence in the rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts.
– Dr. Darby Santiago