Typhoon victims plagued by lack of medical care

November 27th, 2013

The typhoon that razed cities and decimated the futures of nearly 4,000 Filipino citizens has come and gone, but the humanitarian crisis that it left in its wake still lingers. Original death toll estimates put the number at a grim 10,000 but have since been revised to just under 4,000 thus far. The number of missing persons climbed to more than 1,000 over the weekend.

With flattened medical centers and crippled infrastructure, concerns of disease outbreaks are being seriously evaluated. One United Nations office spoke on the issue and noted that “the population is at increased risk of [disease].” This startling fact has caused many to push for a faster response to the Philippines. Some of the fastest responding countries include the United States and Britain. Both countries have taken leading roles in delivering relief.

In the days following the typhoon, the U.S. military mobilized aircraft and ships to deliver relief supplies. U.S. Marine Brigadier General Paul Kennedy noted that that the military’s first goal was to “get life-sustaining aid immediately out to the stricken population.” As of this past Sunday, the U.S. supported UNICEF in its efforts to repair water systems which will bring clean water to roughly 150,000 people who need it desperately. In addition to aiding other organizations, the U.S. acted independently to deploy 9,000 troops to aid in relief efforts. The most recent estimates suggest that over 620,000 pounds of relief supplies have been delivered. These supplies include antibiotics and pain relievers, according to NBC News.

Without clean water, the very real threat of waterborne illnesses, such as the fatal bacterial infection cholera, might claim even more lives. These threats harken back to the tsunami that swept through Indonesia less than a decade ago. Cholera claimed the lives of many in the days and weeks following the tsunami as a result of tainted water supplies. Some experts have even gone as far as to suggest that once-eradicated diseases such as polio might resurface.

In the first days following the disaster, sluggish aid from the Filipino government caused many to point fingers at their ill-preparedness. In fact, some officials have been “relieved of [their] posts,” reported the official Philippines News Agency. However, in light of the high stakes situation, the international community has joined forces in efforts to help. In total, over two dozen countries have responded to the call for aid. Still, the U.N. issued an international appeal seeking $300 million in donations or aid. This staggering figure underscores the sheer devastation that struck the archipelago. Valerie Amos, the top U.N. official in charge of coordinating aid, detailed her candid apologies when she said, “I do feel that we have let people down.”

In total, the typhoon damaged 44 different provinces, including 55 cities. Projections suggest that between nine and 13 million people were impacted by the disaster. While the destruction of the typhoon was overwhelming, the flood of international support has countered mightily. With continued efforts on all fronts, the outlook for the Philippines’ future is much brighter than once projected, according to CNN.

Information from CNN and NBC News was used in this report.