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Appeal for more volunteers for ‘Pablo’ victims

VOLUNTEERS and local government workers work 24 hours repacking relief goods at the provincial gymnasium in Mati City, Davao Oriental. NICO ALCONABA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

DAVAO CITY—The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has issued a call for more volunteers, including doctors and nurses, to serve victims of Typhoon “Pablo” in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Efforts to assist the evacuees are being complicated by the fact that a growing number of social workers are getting sick because of fatigue and prolonged exposure, according to Rebecca Santamaria, head of DSWD’s protective services unit in Southern Mindanao.

“We need doctors, nurses, stress debriefers, even those who are not social workers,” Santamaria said.

The situation is getting worse by the day because of the condition of the affected areas, with some 741,256 people crammed into evacuation centers, she added.

Santamaria said local hospitals and makeshift medical centers in the affected areas are now brimming with patients as more people are getting sick because of lack of food, unsanitary surrounding, strain and lack of sleep.

In Cateel, Davao Oriental, children were the first to fall victims to diarrhea and other illnesses.

In a hospital there, a worried Manily Jumay tends to her son, Nico, who is barely over a year old. Nico is suffering from high fever and diarrhea.

“We need to treat him immediately before his condition worsens,” Dr. Eric Raborar, who heads a volunteer medical team from Albay province, said.

Ali King Cablinda, a staff nurse at the now weather-beaten medical facility in Cateel, said they were treating 15 cases of diarrhea.

“Of the 20 patients, 15, mostly children, have diarrhea,” Cablinda said.

He said based on what doctors had opined, the victims might have consumed murky water because of lack of supply.

In Baganga town, water was also scarce. A mother carrying a child was seen wandering about and begging for water.

In New Bataan, Compostela Valley, diarrhea cases have also been noted but Marlon Esperanza, town information officer, said there is no outbreak as of yet.

Raul Basañez, Compostela Valley health chief, said they were taking measures to contain a possible outbreak of diarrhea and other diseases as thousands displaced by the typhoon crowd sweltering evacuation centers.

In New Bataan for example, Basañez said they were applying disinfectants near evacuation centers and were constantly reminding the evacuees to boil their drinking water.

Santamaria said because the victims in the two provinces have nothing to go home to, with their houses torn into pieces during Pablo’s wrath, they would certainly be spending Christmas and New Year in bunk houses and tents that are being constructed by the national government.

At least 81 bunk houses were being constructed in the New Bataan in Compostela Valley and the towns of Baganga, Cateel and Boston in Davao Oriental.

With a size equivalent of a basketball court, each bunk house, fashioned from plywood and concrete, will have 10 rooms and can accommodate about 300 families.

Santamaria said the first units of the bunk houses would be completed by Dec. 16.

DSWD has allotted about P42.7 million to fund the construction of the temporary shelter. The fund was drawn from the P115-million standby fund of DSWD, she said.

Santamaria said people in badly ravaged towns were also becoming desperate for other items such as milk for infants.

In Cateel, she said people were “trading chicken for milk.”

“I even heard a mother saying, ‘I badly need milk today (for my baby), or, if I can’t find one, I might have to kill people,’ that’s how desperate the situation is,” she said.

Santamaria said aid agencies continued to deliver food and other nonfood essentials to the victims.

But she admitted that other people might not have received assistance yet, more than a week after Pablo hit the two provinces, as some areas remained difficult to reach, not only because the infrastructure were badly damaged but also because they might not have existed there in the first place.

On Wednesday, the World Food Programme (WFP) rationed food and nonfood items in Compostela Valley.

Stephen Anderson, WFP Philippine director, said his organization would provide assistance to the victims during the next six months to help them cope and recover.

At least 40,000 families in “critically affected areas” in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental would benefit from the program, he said during a visit to New Bataan.

Anderson was accompanied by actress KC Concepcion, WFP’s ambassador against hunger.

The evacuees, numbering about 2,000, were initially animated by Concepcion’s arrival at a gymnasium in Barangay Poblacion but their smile soon disappeared.

Concepcion told the crowd she was saddened upon seeing the massive devastation brought by the storm, and that she would do her best to help them cope with their loss.

“I know what happened to you is sad. It is difficult to see all these),” the 27-year-old singer-actress, said.

Anderson admitted that delivering food aid to all victims was a “race against time.”

Aside from providing them their basic needs, Anderson said the WFP would also support disaster-preparedness efforts to help the victims prepare and respond properly to similar future emergencies.

“We are thankful to all local and international relief agencies as our partner in helping New Bataan get back on its feet,” said Mayor Lorenzo Balbin. Germelina Lacorte, Dennis Santos, Frinston Lim and Judy Quiros, Inquirer Mindanao

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Tags: News , Philippine calamities , Regions , Typhoon Pablo

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