According to emergency crews, Typhoon Haiyan is a potential medical disaster for the Philippines. The Red Cross says it has ordered 10,000 body bags in preparation for the number of bodies it believes it will have to retrieve. The official death toll, currently in the hundreds, is likely to grow quickly as rescue crews are better able to assess the situation. Left behind are some 4.2 million people who have been affected by the storm. Many of these people are injured, thirsty or hungry. This storm has created serious food and water shortages. Along with these shortages, there are pools of standing and polluted water. Relief agencies are worried about outbreaks of disease and infections in the storm's wake .Medecins Sans Frontieres says in the first stage of its recovery efforts, it will work to keep infection rates down and then work to vaccinate people for tetanus. It will also provide ongoing psychological help to the victims of the disaster who will be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical supplies are also scarce. The few hospitals left standing have had to turn people away because they are overwhelmed with the injured. Many people desperate for medical attention have made their way to the airport, where the military is trying to administer medical care.
WHO is supporting the Philippines Department of Health to watch for disease outbreaks and other public health threats related to food scarcity, water contamination and other environmental hazards.
It is also helping the government coordinate the international assistance to make sure the field hospitals and medical teams and supplies go where there is the most critical need, and is re-establishing bases for the supplies that are coming in from all over the world. Food, water, hygiene kits, sanitation equipment, antibiotics, antifungal medications, chronic disease medicines, high-energy protein biscuits, wound care supplies, and pain relievers are being sent to the Phillipines.The government has declared a State of National Calamity, which among other powers gives the government price controls for goods including food. The Philippines does already have a medical infrastructure, however. this means that they do have medical staff with experience able to help.
One good thing that has come from this disaster is the collaboration of organizations and countries to aid all the Filipinos injured, hungry, homeless, or infected. The next step is figuring out just how many people are still out there needing help and then receiving an appropriate amount of aid from around the world.
By Jen Christensen