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Evacuees in gloom alarm doctors

One of the most common maladies afflicting victims of this week’s widespread flooding in Metro Manila may require cures not necessarily found in the medicine cabinet.

The head of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) on Thursday said many of the flood victims encountered by the PMA’s humanitarian mission were suffering from depression, on top of a host of physical ailments.

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“You could see it in their eyes. They have this sad expression. They don’t want to talk and they don’t want to eat,” Dr. Leo Olarte, PMA president, said in an interview two days after the group launched the project “Doctors on Boats.”

“It is important that you give them counseling now because they might really lose it and run amuck or commit suicide,” he added.

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Olarte said he and the other doctors met many parents at the evacuation centers who were in silent anguish over the loss of family belongings, after their communities went underwater due to torrential monsoon rains. Among the first to be visited by the PMA teams were evacuees in Roxas District, Quezon City, on Wednesday.

“There was one woman, a mother of five, who just kept crying. She was saying that her family had lost everything because their belongings were all gone,” he said. “I had a hard time understanding her and I had to listen very carefully to what she was saying in between her sobs.”

Olarte said social workers who joined Doctors on Boats provided counseling and encouraged this particular woman to just start life anew.

“The mothers suffered from depression while the fathers suffered from anxiety. They become very anxious thinking about where to find their next meal or source of income,” he said. “They also couldn’t sleep at the evacuation centers.”

On Thursday, “Doctors on Boats” teams also visited homes isolated by the flood in Tonsuya, Malabon City, where they saw patients mostly down with cough and fever, and having a common skin problem after spending long periods wading in murky waters, athlete’s foot.

The PMA mission will be visiting flooded areas in Calamba City and other areas in Laguna province on Friday.

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TAGS: counselling, Doctors on Boat, Dr. Leo Olarte, evacuation centers, Flood, humanitarian mission, Metro Manila, Philippine Medical Association, PMA, Roxas District
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