Typhoon survivors left vulnerable to COVID-19

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Members of the Philippine Coast Guard evacuate residents of a flood-prone area in the southern town of Cagayan de Oro, in southern Mindanao, on December 16, as Typhoon Odette dumped heavy rains in parts of the region. Philippines. – PCG

Damaged health facilities, inadequate medicines and medical equipment and overworked health workers are the main challenges in communities affected by the typhoon, according to relief operations in the Visayas and Mindanao devastated by Odette.

Frequently reported health issues include injuries, diarrhea and upper respiratory infections, with the risk of communicable diseases like 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) also increasing in cramped and poorly maintained evacuation centers.

The United Nations agency for children, UNICEF, which is carrying out humanitarian efforts in favor of affected children in Surigao del Norte, on the island of Siargao, on the island of Dinagat, in the south of Leyte, in Cebu and Bohol, said by email that families cannot practice physical distancing in overcrowded shelters and do not have face masks to protect them from the virus.

Power outages also prevent healthcare facilities, local governments, and stakeholders such as healthcare professionals and social workers from providing assistance.

Under these conditions, the 631,000 displaced a week after the typhoon made landfall, they not only suffer from lack of food, clean water, shelter, electricity and hygiene items, but are also threatened by COVID-19, in especially given the recent Omicron wave.

“To face these multiple risks, we must empower communities and local authorities to react. Local health systems must be supported to continue to prevent, detect and treat cases of COVID-19. Affected communities must have adequate resources to apply public health standards, ”said UNICEF.

These include clean water and soap for hand washing, masks, evacuation centers with sufficient space for physical distancing and continued COVID-19 vaccination.

LESSONS FROM YOLANDA
For Typhoon Yolanda survivors living in resettlement sites in Tacloban City, the situation remains dire eight years after the disaster, with issues such as lack of livelihoods and reluctance to vaccinate, according to researchers from the. Leyte Normal University (LNU).

“As they have been resettled and isolated on the outskirts of Tacloban City, households affected by the disaster face significant health, economic and social challenges in the context of the pandemic,” said Ara Joy U. Pacoma, speaker from LNU at Harvard. Humanitarian Initiative Symposium in November on COVID-19 on the sidelines.

citing her study co-authored with fellow researchers Yvonne Su and Ginbert P. Cuaton in 2021, Ms Pacoma shared that of the 352 households in resettlement sites they surveyed, 42% have earned less since the pandemic and 19% have lost their jobs.

The resulting decrease in the quantity and quality of food, with many reporting reducing their meals to just two a day, exposes them to all manner of illnesses.

More than 75,000 people live in Tacloban resettlement sites, built to house those displaced by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. However, poor living conditions, including lack of running water, electricity and space. openings, along with insufficient livelihoods and financial assistance, put these people at risk for COVID-19, she added.

HESITANCE TO VACCINE
The study also found that 95.8% of those polled in Tacloban settlements were unvaccinated as of June, with 73.11% saying they had read false information on social media.

Reluctance to vaccination, declared by the World Health Organization, the Philippine government and various medical and health experts like a major challenge in this pandemic, remains strong in the peripheries of society, as seen in Tacloban.

The main concerns of the participants included the lack of confidence in the vaccine, its possible side effects and its unknown future effects, ”said Ms. Su of the Department of Equity Studies at York University, in a statement. article online in December. “These responses reveal poor knowledge of vaccines and encounters with misinformation.”

According to Ms. Pacoma, the lack of government public health campaigns targeting marginalized areas creates an opportunity for fake news about COVID-19 and the effectiveness of vaccines.

To improve the quality of life of disaster survivors during resettlement, she suggested co-producing programs that will benefit them, through inclusive and participatory community consultations. – Brontë H. Lacsamana

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