Relief aid on the Philippines: “full of confidence”

by Christiane Bähr, Nina Skandalaki,  2012/04/02

Almost one year has passed since the destructive typhoons “Nesat” and “Nalgae” caused immense floods and left a wake of devastation on the Philippine main island of Luzon. Three months ago, typhoon “Washi” brought on sorrow and destruction on Mindanao Island, which is located south of Luzon.

Thanks to the humedica distributions, which followed our medical disaster relief measures, thousands of people received aid. Photo: humedica/Cherrys Abrigo

Thanks to the support of the German Federal Foreign Office, humedica could offer aid to the people living in the affected disaster regions on the Philippines by means of deploying medical teams and distributing essential relief goods. After conclusion of the mission, our last coordinator, Christiane Bähr, looks back:

“I was active as a coordinator on the Philippines from the end of December 2011 to the beginning of March 2012 and I cooperated with our partner organisation Operation Blessing Philippines in the provinces of Aurora, Isabela and Quirino.

Now, after the relief mission on the Philippines has been concluded and I have been back to Germany for two weeks, of course I wonder if, and in which way, we were actually able to help the people after such a disaster. Was it the relief goods, like paraffin lamps, fishing nets and sanitary articles, the people needed most?

Or was medical care more important? Or could we help the people simply by being there for them, by listening to them and by giving them the feeling that they were not alone and would not be forgotten, no matter how remote their villages?

I think the combination of all these relief measures resulted in effective help and this is also how this sustainable and efficient disaster relief project on the Philippines could be concluded successfully.

For the children in particular, it is hard to understand the sudden changes caused by a disaster. Helping them is a special objective of humedica. Photo: humedica/Cherrys Abrigo

What is particularly worth mentioning is also our last relief goods distribution at the end of February: we could provide the poorest inhabitants of a village in the remote mountain region of Quirino with 500 paraffin lamps, more than 500 water cans and almost 250 bowls. When the humedica doctor team offered basic medical treatment in these remote mountain villages together with Operation Blessing Philippines, they noticed the difficult and often even miserable living conditions of the people here.

Most of the families have no access to clean drinking water or electricity. Their situation deteriorated even further due to the typhoons in autumn 2011 and the following, exceptionally long and intensive wet season. For this reason, humedica decided to run another relief goods distribution here after the conclusion of the medical mission and provide the people with urgently needed paraffin lamps, water cans for the storage of drinking water and bowls.

On the first distribution day, Francis Ablos from the small village Anna in Nagtipunan told us: “The people here are very poor; most of them live of growing bananas and rice. The typhoons and the heavy rainfalls in December and January caused immense river floodings also in this mountain region. The harvest was destroyed and for many people the only way to find food is to hunt, but unfortunately, there are almost no larger animals left in the forest.

We live in a very remote area and the medical mission of humedica and Operation Blessing in this region was the first kind of medical care we have been offered by a relief organisation during the past ten years, and these are the first relief goods that have ever reached us. We are deeply grateful for both.” A firm, grateful handshake, and Francis turns to join the assembled village community, which is being taught how to use the paraffin lamps. For his wife, who is suffering from cancer, we unfortunately could not do anything.

During a large-scale, three-day distribution campaign, we could provide relief goods to a total of ten village communities in the mountains of the Quirino Province. The recipients were above all women with children, elderly and disabled persons, but also institutions such as schools, kindergartens and churches. The people expressed their heartfelt gratitude with their smiles and their friendliness towards us.

Coordinator Christiane Bähr was active on the Philippines for several months, in order to organise and implement relief goods distributions.

Since the beginning of the relief measures on the Philippines in October 2011, humedica could send a total of eight medical teams to the various disaster regions – seven to the main island of Luzon and one to Mindanao. The teams consisted of more than ten doctors, five nurses, four medical students, one paramedic and six coordinators who offered professional basic medical care at the mission locations.

At the same time, we implemented three large-scale relief goods distributions, in order to support the people, who had slid into unimaginable misery, in a sustainable way: sanitary kits for 1,000 families (over 6,000 persons) in the provinces of Aurora, Bulacan and Isabela. 650 fishing nets and 650 paraffin lamps in the fishermen’s villages of Dilasag, Dinapigue and Casiguran, Aurora. And 500 paraffin lamps, more than 500 water cans and over 200 bowls in the mountain villages of Nagtipunan, Quririno.

I think that we could conclude this relief project highly successfully. Starting from autumn 2011, humedica implemented various relief measures on the Philippines and hence, at the beginning of March 2012, could once more leave the country full of confidence.

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