Typhoon-damaged health facilities get a makeover

Published: 16 January 2015 23:56 CET

By Kate Marshall, IFRC

The Philippine Red Cross, with the support of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, is targeting 35 health facilities for rehabilitation as part of the overall Typhoon Haiyan recovery plan.

The society, in collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has started work on 20 of these facilities in Cebu, Leyte and Panay. The health clinic in Abaca, Leyte, is the first to be restored and was inspected by health officials and representatives from Philippine Red Cross and IFRC last week.

“The process starts with a very detailed assessment by our health teams to ensure that all stakeholders are informed and give their consent,” said Dr Bhanu Pratap, the IFRC’s Health Coordinator for the Haiyan operation.

Before work can begin, each project goes through a thorough assessment process to ensure every detail is covered and to allow proper consultation with communities, legal and building representatives and municipal officials.

The assessment takes into account several factors such as proximity to other services, existing equipment, income level, location and community requests.

Meanwhile in Tacloban, the Red Cross is undertaking a full reconstruction of the Barangay Suhi district health centre. Flood-prone Suhi is one of the coastal city’s poorest communities. It is also geographically challenging, stretching all the way from the banks of the San Juanico Strait to an inaccessible, hilly inland area.  

For some months following Typhoon Haiyan, a site in Suhi next to the health centre was used as a mass grave for up to 2,000 bodies and residents were forced to go to another centre for medical check-ups. Once the facility is repaired residents will find it much easier to access medical help, Dr Pratap said.

The Philippine Red Cross assessment report on Suhi assembled evidence of several factors affecting the health and safety of residents by referring to secondary data, community mapping and the seasonal health calendar, recording direct observations and consulting the community through meetings and focus groups.

A community health volunteer team then surveyed dozens of households using mobile phone data entry to collect and record information.

“It’s very important to ensure community participation and decision-making so that local issues are well identified,” Dr Pratap said. “In some places residents will wait for our staff and volunteers to arrive because they are so eager to present their ideas. They realise what we’re doing will serve to strengthen their community.”

Health complaints in Suhi include a high incidence of respiratory tract infections, blamed on the nearby rubbish dump. Diarrhoea is also an issue, as many families lack proper toilets and clean drinking water.  

Malnutrition is also compounded by schistosomiasis, a common waterborne disease. Medical missions to treat residents in the mountainous upland area are few and far between, despite the need for more first aid, especially in light of the area’s numerous traffic accidents.  

As part of the Haiyan operation, the health facilities rehabilitation programme is an ideal entry point for a comprehensive community-based health and first aid programme covering nearly 100,000 people. It is also the first time that mobile phone technology based on Open Data Kits is being used to record baseline information for health in the Philippines.

“We’ve selected 68 communities and recruited more than 450 health volunteers ranging from 18 to 68 years of age. The health workers, through a community health committee, act as a bridge between the communities and the municipal health authorities,” Dr Pratap said.