OWWA to distressed OFWs: We’re here to listen to you | Inquirer News

OWWA to distressed OFWs: We’re here to listen to you

/ 04:50 AM January 17, 2022

MANILA, Philippines — A longing for their families and the homeland is just one of the anxieties confronting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) which consequently affect their mental and emotional well-being.

So when in distress or seeking someone they can talk to, wherever they may be, helplines are available for them, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) said.


Owwa Administrator Hans Cacdac said a helpline called “Kumusta Kabayan” is available for OFWs, whether they are abroad or returning to the country.

The 24/7 hotline (0969-1697068) is available via Viber or WhatsApp.


“This was made for OFWs who have experienced extreme sadness amid their journey abroad or while they are sailing,” Owwa said in a video launching of the hotline in December.

With the help of experts, OFWs who turn to the Kumusta Kabayan helpline would be given free advice, assessment and even medicines if these can be sent.


Meanwhile, as part of mandatory COVID-19 health protocols, returning OFWs are required to fulfill a 14-day quarantine in designated facilities.

Cacdac said standee displays are placed at airports to inform returning OFWs about the helpline, as well as the “Uwian Na” program, a mobile application aimed at monitoring the well-being of OFWs while on quarantine.

“OFWs, upon their return, are encouraged to log in here because they can signify their status while [on] quarantine,” Cacdac told the Inquirer on Sunday.

The app seeks their feedback on quarantine services such as food, Wi-Fi and the supervision of Owwa “houseparents,” among others.

Every quarantine facility has an assigned houseparent who creates a chat group where quarantined OFWs can bring up anything.


“The houseparent would immediately come to their rooms if they need any help,” Cacdac said.

Personnel of the Owwa and the Philippine Coast Guard also conduct a briefing for newly arrived OFWs at the quarantine facilities.

Then a roving team of Owwa nurses and midwives make their rounds at these sites.


The nurses bring with them a tablet containing forms which OFWs would fill out if they need to have a consultation.

The Owwa has partnered with the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) in attending to OFWs who may not be able to handle their isolation well.

“Most of the time NCMH would prescribe medicine. In fact, they would even advise to let them (the OFWs) go home because the [best help] they could get is being reunited with their families,” Cacdac said.

He added, “My advice for our fellow OFWs is to turn to our helplines so we would know their situation and worries. They can share anything there.”

On Dec. 22, the Owwa conducted a webinar for families of OFWs to promote mental health awareness especially during the holidays.

The Owwa also offers Hotline 1348, which attends to requests on different programs of the agencies and other OFW-related concerns.

Lockdown, suicides

Several OFWs died apparently of suicide during the pandemic lockdown.

A 42-year-old woman who was repatriated from Kuwait allegedly took her life on April 26, 2020, at a lodge in Pasay City, where she and 103 other OFWs were staying.

A report reaching the Pasay police said the woman was found dead near a wooden stairway of the hotel around 6 a.m. She was last seen alive around 4 a.m. “bearing a sad face and noticeable anxiety,” according to the report.

She had not been working for four months before her repatriation on April 4.

In May that year, a Filipino housekeeper who was taken in by the Philippine Embassy in Beirut as a ward while the Lebanese capital was on lockdown, reportedly jumped from a room she was sharing with two other OFWs and died.

In June, a cruise ship worker awaiting repatriation died of an apparent suicide.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said at that time, “It is my sad duty to report that a 28-year old female mariner committed suicide in her cabin in the ship where she’s had to stay because repatriation flights back to the Philippines have been suspended again.”

On Jan. 3 this year, a 40-year-old OFW from Papua New Guinea was found dead at a government facility in Pasay City where his quarantine began the previous day.


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