September 01, 2012

Staff treating respiratory infections and water-borne diseases

The Philippines continues to recover after severe flooding caused catastrophic damage in early August. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is providing emergency medical assistance in two neighbourhoods where healthcare is particularly difficult to access. The floods have affected an estimated 4.2 million people living in 17 provinces in and around the capital, Manila. A total of 109 people have died, mainly as a result of drowning or landslides. The floodwaters have now mostly receded, and people are returning to their homes. However, a huge clean up job remains.

MSF staff distributing hygiene kits (soap, buckets and towels) as part of ongoing aid following severe flooding in the Philippines in August. MSF is also operating emergency mobile health clinics in Bulacan province, where staff are treating respiratory infections and skin diseases.

“The disruption to the barangays [local neighbourhoods] has been catastrophic and everyone has been involved in the cleanup – men, women and children,” says Brian Moller, the MSF project coordinator for the Philippines’ emergency response. “Although monsoonal floods are frequent in the Philippines, they still have a big impact on people.”

MSF is operating mobile clinics in Hagonoy and Calumpit municipalities, in Bulacan province, north of Manila, where medical needs remain high. “Last week our two mobile clinics saw between 100 and 150 people a day. We are busy and there is definitely a need for our services,” says Moller. The most common medical complaints are respiratory infections, skin infections and chronic diseases such as hypertension.

MSF teams are also focusing on surveillance and treatment of water-borne diseases such as leptospirosis – a severe bacterial infection transmitted through contaminated water. There have been 36 cases of leptospirosis recorded in the province, and although an outbreak has not been declared, cases continue to increase. Staff are now working with local authorities to distribute doxycycline to prevent this infection.

Teams are also involved in water and sanitation activities to reduce the spread of water-borne diseases. In the Calumpit and Hagonoy areas, some 3,000 hygiene kits have been distributed, which include items such as soap, buckets and towels.

In collaboration with local authorities, MSF has distributed water purification tablets and jerry cans and is assisting with the removal of 6,400 tonnes of domestic rubbish. MSF first worked in the Philippines in 1987. Teams also responded to severe flooding in Bulacan province in 2011, conducting more than 2,600 consultations and distributing 20,000 litres of drinking water.

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