Gov’t shifts to health care for Laguna, Rizal evacueesBy Maricar Cinco, Romulo O. Ponte
Inquirer Southern Luzon
LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—Government efforts are now shifting to providing attention to health and sanitation at the evacuation centers in Laguna and Rizal, a top disaster official in Calabarzon said on Friday.
“We’ve agreed for the local health and disaster offices to enhance the water [supply] and sanitation at evacuation centers and to implement camp management,” said Vicente Tomazar, director of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC) in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), following a meeting of health and disaster officers from the regional down to the city and municipal levels in Laguna, Rizal and Cavite on Thursday.
In two Laguna towns, international aid also came in nonfood item kits. The Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, distributed P750,000 worth of nonfood item kits to 500 flood victims in the towns of Sta. Cruz and Victoria in Laguna on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
The victims in the two towns became the first batch of recipients of the agency’s donation.
On Friday, the provincial and regional DRRMC reported there were still 17,190 families inside the evacuation centers in Laguna and around 12,000 families in Rizal, the same number since the office’s last count on Wednesday.
Tomazar said the towns and cities with a large number of families at the evacuation centers were San Pedro and Bay and the cities of Biñan, Sta. Rosa, Cabuyao and Calamba in Laguna, and the towns of Angono, Cainta, and Rodriguez in Rizal. Each evacuation center in these municipalities and cities houses over 500 families.
“We received reports that evacuees have already developed skin diseases. Although the number is still minimal, for instance about two to three persons in Bay (Laguna), we are anticipating that this could spread fast,” Tomazar said.
He said a common skin infection was athlete’s foot, due to the evacuees’ exposure to the flood, but there was no reported case yet of the rat urine-borne disease, leptospirosis.
Tomazar said representatives from the Department of Health, the Nutrition Council, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development would be going around the evacuation centers at least thrice a week to provide medical attention to evacuees.
“In the larger evacuation centers (those with 300 families or more), we are considering placing health officers on standby,” he said.
According to the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), the lake water level remained almost the same the entire week, with a level ranging from 13.86 meters to 13.88 m. The water level as of Friday was at 13.88 m, still way above the normal level of 12.5 m during the rainy season.
LLDA hydrologist engineer Emil Hernandez said the water increased or decreased “just by a few centimeters. During nighttime, the [rate] of evaporation is slow and during daytime, not much changes.”
In Cavite, evacuees had all gone home and authorities were focusing on rehabilitating damaged houses, agriculture and infrastructure, said Tomazar.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-Nassa, through “Operation Lingap Habagat,” helped distribute P750,000 worth of nonfood kits that were donated by the US-based international relief agency, CRS, to Sta. Cruz and Victoria in Laguna.
Each kit, worth around P1,500, contained a pail with cover, a sleeping mat, 3 blankets, 10 pieces of bath soap, 4 laundry bar soaps, 4 pieces of toothbrush, 2 pieces of toothpaste, 1 pack of napkin and
Maria Josephine Wijiastoti of CRS Indonesia, who was among around 10-staff members helping distribute and supervise the operation, said the 300 beneficiaries in Sta. Cruz came from four barangays affected by the floods.
Ma. Emily “Nikki” De Vera, deputy program manager for emergency of CRS Manila, said it was only their initial round of distribution as they expected to identify more recipients in their project’s next schedule.
Wijiastoti said her group in Indonesia and the Philippines, in partnership with CBCP-Nassa, had been working with the local parishes to identify the target beneficiaries.
Organizers said the main donor of the CRS relief goods was the United States Agency for International Development.