March 20, 2014

Cradled in his father’s arms, five-month-old Niño cries feebly. He is coughing and has been feverish for two days, with red spots on his face.“Two days ago he came down with a fever. It didn’t go away,” said Niño’s mother. “His fever is very high. I am very worried.“We came all the way from Buabua town, one and a half hours away by motorbike from Guiuan town. There is no free health centre near our town; it was destroyed. We have nothing, we lost everything.”The doctors suspect that Niño is suffering from dengue fever, complicated by pneumonia. Dengue is transmitted by a mosquito that breeds in pools of stagnant water, which are everywhere following the typhoon.“When the typhoon made landfall in our town, we sought refuge in my parents’ house,” continued Niño’s mother. The wind was so strong that it blew off the roof of the house.“We thought it was the last day of our lives. It’s difficult to describe the event, it is traumatic. Niño was soaked in water. We cannot wrap him or dry him as all our things are wet.”The typhoon wreaked havoc in Guiuan, a town of around 45,000 people in eastern Samar island. Houses, trees, and crops were all flattened.More than a week after the storm struck, Niño and his family live in a makeshift house made from the remnants of their destroyed home. Work is hard to find, so when their son became very ill, they searched for free medical care.“We asked in our town where we could bring our son. We have no money to afford his treatment and he is our only child. The community told us to come here to Guiuan. They said MSF gives free care and could help us.”Niño has been admitted to the newly opened 15-bed inpatient ward of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) tent hospital in Guiuan, set up next to the destroyed general hospital. The MSF hospital will provide a range of services, including a maternity ward and operating theatre.Since MSF started its medical activities in Guiuan, the team has seen patients with diarrhea, measles, coughs, runny noses, infected wounds, and road accident injuries.So far, there are only two patients with suspected dengue, but the disease was a problem in the area prior to the typhoon, so the MSF staff is on alert for possible cases.

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