MANILA, Philippines ? To make life a little more bearable for over half a million people displaced by Tropical Storm ?Ondoy? (international codename: Ketsana), the Department of Health (DoH) Thursday issued a ?wish list? of medicines and called for more volunteers, including mothers who could donate breast milk.
Officials also appealed for potable water, trash bags and hygiene kits, and urged private companies to lend portable toilets to some 500 evacuation centers.
In line with the government?s advocacy promoting breastfeeding, officials are turning down donations of formula milk for infants and young children and would prefer the service of wet nurses.
In a press conference, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III called attention to the unsanitary conditions in evacuation centers, saying countless evacuees have for sure contracted various ailments such as colds, cough, and diarrhea.
Others had sustained minor injuries fleeing the floods, he noted.
But Duque maintained ?there is no reported major disease outbreak? in the shelters as of Thursday. He acknowledged, however, the need to deploy rapid assessment teams ?to show the health condition in greater detail.?
Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde said the DoH had released P2.1 million worth of drugs and supplies, including first aid kits and cadaver bags, in the past two days.
The DoH has also deployed 35 medical teams and four psychological counseling teams. More volunteers are needed for medical missions and health information campaigns, it said.
The following items are a must, according to the agency:
? Oral, topical, and intravenous antibiotics for children and adults.
? Antipyretics /analgesics; oral rehydration solutions and zinc.
? Antihypertensive drugs.
? Intravenous fluids; anti-tetanus serum, tetanus toxoid and anti-measles vaccines.
? Multivitamins for children and adults; ferrous sulfate for mothers.
? Potable water; chlorine tablets or granules.
? Hygiene kits consisting of soaps, alcohol, toothbrush, toothpaste, baby diapers, sanitary napkins, cotton, Betadine, gauze, tissue paper and towel or towelettes.
? Sterilized breast milk.
? Trash bags (preferably colored green or black, to segregate biodegradable from nonbiodegradable waste).
Dr. Yolanda Olivares, director of the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said formula milk donations were ?discouraged to make sure that breastfeeding will not be undermined especially at this time of emergency.?
Olivares said breastfeeding becomes all the more crucial in times of shortages and calamities for infants to boost their resistance to diseases.
Church charities have also stepped up relief operations.
Caritas Manila, the charity arm of the Archdiocese of Manila, said on Thursday it had raised cash donations totaling P6.1 million as of Sept. 30.
In partnership with Radio Veritas, Caritas has also gathered P1 million worth of donations in kind.
Through its network of parishes, schools, and community centers, the Church has identified over 150,000 households in Metro Manila and nearby provinces as ?priority families? for relief assistance.
Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales also announced that a special collection will be made at all Sunday Masses in Manila for Ondoy?s victims.
Also on Thursday, Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales said donations from private and public groups abroad should be addressed to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to avoid being taxed.
Citing a presidential directive, Morales asked foreign donors to consign their donations to the DSWD, the lead coordinating agency for the relief efforts, ?so that the fees will be waived.?
Morales said his agency was under orders from Malacańang to release the donations to DSWD ?without delay.?
?The processing of documents can follow later on,? he added.
Morales also squelched rumors circulated in text messages and in the popular social networking site Facebook alleging that customs officials had been ?seizing? shipments of international donations meant for Ondoy?s victims.
?I?ve received text messages (about it). Why would we do that?? he said.
In a phone interview, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral explained that the DSWD was allowed by law to directly receive foreign aid for these donations to be exempted from taxes.
In Quezon City, the local government has set up 11 rehabilitation and assistance centers and allotted P1 million for antibiotics, mefenamic acid, amoxicillin, multivitamins, analgesic, and cough and cold medicines.
Each center will be given 20 drinking water jugs daily and six heavy-duty stoves, according to social services development department head Tess Mariano.
Potable water comes courtesy of San Miguel Corp. which donated some P500,000 worth of bottled water.
Mayor Sonny Belmonte said the city government would shoulder burial expenses for all Ondoy fatalities in Quezon City, including residents who died in a fire that struck Barangay Tatalon at the height of the storm. With reports from Kristine L. Alave, Nikko Dizon, and Julie Aurelio