By Stephanie Lucas, MPH’14 in Epidemiology with a Global Health Certificate
From the Bohol earthquake just last month to the Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda last week, it is heartbreaking to see how many natural disasters this country endures. I have a little over a month left of my three-month practicum in the Philippines with International Organization for Migration (IOM), one of the organizations involved in the risk reduction and response process in partnership with the United Nations action plan.
Safe in metro Manila, which the typhoon missed almost completely, I am saddened by the situation. Across the Philippines we estimate that there are 450,000 people in shelters and 1,790 in evacuation centers. Just last Tuesday I left Northern Palawan, specifically Coron. Like Leyte and Samar, it too was located close to the path of the typhoon and has been devastated by the storm. I heard from a friend I met there that many people are missing or dead and at least 50 boats were destroyed. Places that I had just visited and photographed (see below) were no longer accessible. The large cross on the top of Mt. Tapyas fell down; the airport was out of commission; and the market was also crippled.
On Tuesday, I participated in a series of health cluster meetings at the Philippine Department of Health as a representative from IOM. We discussed how to assess the situation, identify the most vulnerable populations, and then organize, prioritize, and coordinate efforts to respond to the typhoon.