“Someone in this world remembers us”

by Margret Müller,  2011/12/30

Together with the experienced relief doctor Prof. Dr. Heiner Laube and nurse and paramedic Philipp Nowack, coordinator Margret Müller is once again on a relief mission in the Philippines. Only a few weeks ago, she was active on the main Island of Luzon. Now she is coordinating the humedica relief measures in Mindanao Island, where typhoon Washi caused destruction and misery, as the young woman from Berlin reports.

“When in the night of December 18, the flood wave surprised the inhabitants of Iligan, many of them, at least of those who realised it, escaped to the only hill of the city’s very poor beach area –the dumping ground. The force of the waves completely dissolved the presumably secure mountain of waste and all those who had taken refuge on it were buried under masses of waste. Even when merely describing this scenario, my heart almost stops beating.

Although it looks like this man had been fortunate, and his house had survived the disaster without major damage, this appearance is deceiving: only two of his house’s outer walls have withstood the floods and mudslides. Photo: humedica/Margret Müller

Typhoon Washi caused roaring mudslides and flood waves to roll down the mountainside riverbeds into beach towns like Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. Tree trunks were carried along by the water masses and these in particular gave the wave its murderous force that destroyed houses and above all the little wooden huts of the region’s poorest inhabitants.

In many places in Iligan no traces can be seen that there have ever been houses at all. In some places individual huts are still standing, but they are covered by metre-high piles of mud and tree trunks, or they are surrounded by rocks.

People are living in this moon landscape; they are sitting in small groups on the remains of what had once been their houses and which now is often nothing more than a wall and a few wet possessions. When we approach them they smile and wish us “Merry Christmas”. Merry Christmas?

However, the forced smiles do not remain on their faces for long. The situation is too bad. They tell us of the night, of the few things that remain, of overcrowded reception camps, their fears of another flood and their fear of someone occupying their “living place”.

Furthermore, they are worried about the diseases that are caused by a lack of clean water, as many bodies have still not been recovered; they tell us about the dust in the morning and during the day and the humidity and frequent rainfalls at night, which leads to respiratory diseases. Many of them suffer from fever. But what is worst, is the fear of the future: where are they to go? What is life holding for them? What will their future be like?

Since Iligan is not as centrally located as Cagayan de Oro, provision with supplies is initiated much slower here – which faces us with the challenge of having to accept that we cannot split ourselves in six parts, as our help is needed urgently in various different places.

Our focus is set on physical treatment of the various complaints. But also psychological treatment is important, and the assurance that the people are not left alone in their misery. Photo: humedica Margret Müller

The day after Christmas, the humedica team treated evacuated or homeless children, women and men at two reception camps. One of these centres had once been a school, and 5,000 persons have found shelter there after the typhoon. Between 80 and up to 120 persons share a class room – and class rooms are not any larger in the Philippines than they are in Germany.

Crammed together like this, people share everything – in particular also diseases, which seem to spread fast as lightning. Many schools were turned into emergency shelters for the flood victims, but in January, school is supposed to start again – what will then become of those in need? At the moment there does not seem to be any alternative solution.

The situation takes its toll on many of those living at the reception camps – living together constantly and the feeling of constraint, of being squeezed together in a small room with hundreds of other persons, who also suffer and complain, are frightened and desperate, causes stress, pain, illness and physical weakness.

Our help is urgently needed, and actually there is a need for many more helping hands. We realise that our presence alone, the fact that “someone in this world remembers us”, is an important factor. But much more than that, we want to actually help, relief pain, help people recover and at least take care of physical wounds.”

Dear supporters of our work. In all our anticipation for Christmas and the approaching New Year, let us not forget the people in misery whose lives have been turned upside down and destroyed completely. Let us send out many more helping hands to support them. Thank you very much!

      humedica e. V.
      Donation reference “Flood relief Asia
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

You can also achieve great results by means of a short text message: send the reference DOC to die +49 8 11 90 and make a donation of 5 euros, with 4.83 euros of this amount being directly channelled into the humedica disaster relief.

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