Massachusetts General Hospital shared this dispatch from Dr. Miriam Aschkenasy, deputy director of global disaster response at Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Global Health. She and six other health professionals from the hospital have been working with the International Medical Corps. in the Philippines to care for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan. The group recently started working near Roxas City in the Western Visayas region:
We arrived a week ago today and so much has happened. We are a team of seven (2 doctors, 4 nurses, and a pharmacist). Two of our team members are from the Philippines and one of those is from the region we are working in.
We have power almost all day and when there is power we have internet and AC—a true treat! We usually head out in the morning with several plastic bins full of medical supplies and travel by car and boat (then we climb under trees, walk across wood planks, and over downed power lines) to remote locations that have not yet received any services. We set up a clinic for the day and, working with the Filipino midwives and nurses from the barangay (village), we see patients.
Yesterday our two teams saw nearly 300 patients—I alone saw 62 children! We are mostly doing primary care but just our presence, I think, is helpful—some peace of mind that they are not being ignored or passed over. People are already hard at work rebuilding (I have never seen rebuilding happen so fast) and it means so much to them to have someone reach out to their community. We have seen 500 patients since we started and will continue to do mobile clinics in hard-to-reach locations for the time being.
The contrast between the areas that have been struck by the Typhoon and those that were not is startling: the areas hard hit have been totally devastated. You can drive along a road and suddenly every single telephone pole is down—broken, bent in two, swaying on its side or laying in the road. There is a park near here with these huge fat trunked trees and it looks as if someone took a hand and just knocked them all over—every tree in the park is on its side with its entire root bulb pulled up from the ground.
The areas that were not hit as hard are back to regular commerce—supermarkets, restaurants, and mall traffic going on as usual. They sell t-shirts that say Bangon Philippines—which means “Rise Philippines” and reminds me of “Boston Strong.” We are able to purchase water and food and today the team took a break and had a fish lunch by the ocean. Again—the contrast is stark and startling, as usually the impoverished are exponentially more affected by the storm then others. We went to one island and they said all they need are fishing nets. Before the storm they would buy fresh water from the mainland but now they can’t fish and therefore can’t buy water. If they have nets, they have a livelihood, and they have a means for survival.
The local and national government is also very organized when it comes to the response and they are doing a good job of coordinating the many different organizations. It won’t be long until there is a move from the response phase to the recovery phase, you can see it (and hear it) happening all around. I can hear someone working on their house as I type.
The team is now doing pharmacy inventory. The medical director and I are planning a surprise thanksgiving dinner for everyone with chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, coconut pie, and coconut wine. We have much to give thanks for!
Another peek at their work: