4 January 2012, Manila and Bangkok — An outbreak of the deadly bacteria Leptospirosis has highlighted the dramatic and ongoing needs of the tens of thousands of people in northern Mindanao who were displaced and affected by Typhoon Washi.
According to health authorities, 128 cases have been confirmed with a further 200 suspected. Four people have died. Leptospirosis is an infection caused by bacteria found in the urine of infected animals, especially rats. It typically infects humans through wounds or broken skin that come in contact with contaminated flood waters, vegetation, or moist soil.
It can cause headaches, muscle and eye pain, fevers and chills, and vomiting. In serious cases in can lead to meningitis, liver damage (causing jaundice), and renal failure.
“This outbreak highlights again how precarious the lives of many people in northern Mindanao are,” said Richard Gordon, the Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross. “There are tens of thousands of people who have now spent two and a half weeks in crowded evacuation centres or ruined neighbourhoods. They have had only limited access to clean water and basic sanitation. They urgently need support.”
The Philippine Red Cross has deployed health staff and mobilized additional volunteers and resources in an effort to help limit the outbreak. Supplies of the antibiotic Doxycycline – enough for 2,600 people – have been sent from Manila to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, along with health education materials that will form the centrepiece of a soon to be launched public health campaign.
“This is the last thing that these people need,” said Selva Sinnadurai, the IFRC’s representative to the Philippines. “It reinforces how urgent it is that new accommodation is found for the families that lost their homes. People need more space, and they need access to clean water and basic sanitation.”
According to the UN, there are still about 36,000 families – approximately 180,000 people – living in evacuation centres. However, so far, only enough land to build temporary housing for 19,000 of these people has been secured.
Since Washi, the Philippine Red Cross has provided assistance to almost 90,000 people. Three water purifiers have provided 1,500 families (7,500 people) with clean water. A further 299,000 litres of clean water has been distributed in five evacuation centres with support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). 1,349 families (6,745 people) have received information about sanitation and hygiene and nearly 4,500 families have received hygiene kits.
In addition, almost 17,800 families (89,500 people) have received food from the Red Cross and almost 7,400 families (36,600 people) people have been reached with basic but crucial relief supplies. Both these figures already far exceed the Red Cross’ initial targets of 5,000 families. Philippine Red Cross volunteers have reached a further 6,400 families (38,400 people) with food and non-food supplies provided by the ICRC.
In the days following Washi, the Philippine Red Cross and IFRC launched an emergency international appeal for 2.63 million Swiss francs (USD 2.8 million, Euro 2.2 million). As the situation continues to unfold, and as the medium and long-term needs of those affected becomes clearer, it is likely that this figure will be revised and increased in the coming days.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 mil¬lion people each year through its 186 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
For more information, or to set up interviews, please contact:
• Teresita Usapdin, communications consultant, Philippine Red Cross. Mobile: +63 9155 725 002.
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
• Matthew Cochrane, communications, IFRC. Mobile: +66 81 922 8739. E-mail: email@example.com
In Kuala Lumpur:
• Reeni Amin Chua, communications officer Asia Pacific, IFRC.
Mobile +60 19 274 4968. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org