Philippines: Reaching out to isolated communities

ALT MSFA girl looks at the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan in Liberty, a town in Leyte island, one of the most affected areas by the storm.

The consequences of Typhoon Haiyan have been devastating in the regions of Leyte, Samar and Panay, but the plight of the population in the rural and isolated areas of these islands has often gone unreported. Reaching out to these communities is a top priority for the medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Medical teams of MSF are using boats or driving up mountains to get access to the population affected by the catastrophe. The distribution of non-food items and the setting up of mobile clinics have been a cornerstone of the strategy to reach the most remote communities.

“Vital communication infrastructures were damaged,” says Manfred Murillo, MSF logistician, “so the idea is to supply these families with basic kits in order for them to survive and give them a better quality of life.”

No aid in many places

So far, more than 15,000 relief kits and 4,700 tents have been distributed. The teams are disseminated in different areas trying to respond to the situation created by the typhoon. In Leyte, both the mobile clinics and the support to healthcare centres are key to cover the medical and humanitarian needs of the population.

“In many places, like Liberty and Capoocan, we found people who had not had any help 10 to 20 days after the typhoon,” says Karla Bil, MSF medical coordinator. “No one had stopped there before. We also saw people with severe wounds.”

While large coastal parts of Leyte have been devastated, some inlands areas have also been affected, like the towns around Burauen district, and it has been difficult to reach some communities.

Field hospitals

“We set up a field hospital in Burauenaimed at enabling the main district healthcare centre to receive patients like before the typhoon,” says Federica Nogarotto, MSF coordinator. “At the same time, MSF is supporting the health centres in the surrounding towns with water, drugs and human resources to provide medical consultations to the population.” Over 3,300 tents and 3,100 hygiene and kitchen kits have been distributed in these isolated areas, which are among the most severely hit by the catastrophe.

In the island of Samar, two medical teams (one land-based, the other travelling by boat) are running mobile clinics in outlying areas, including the small island south of Guiuan. Teams are continuing to distribute tents, hygiene kits and cooking equipment to people whose houses were destroyed by the typhoon. The teams have already distributed more than 4,800 kits and 1,480 tents in the area. Water and sanitation specialists are currently providing water for 20,000 people per day.

View all MSF coverage of its response to Typhoon Haiyan