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Building community-based health programs in North Cebu

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“It has been two years already but we still cannot forget Typhoon Yolanda. We have always been farmers, our life revolves around our land; without our land, we have nothing. Yolanda destroyed all our corn plants, vegetables, coconut trees, cassava, bananas, and our neighbors’ too. Our houses that gave shelter to us and our forefathers were also damaged. We are indeed thankful of the support from the outside. Today, most of us have recovered and are moving on with our lives.”

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) put the world’s attention in the Philippine Visayas regions where hundreds of villages were devastated and thousands lost their lives. Aid poured in from various national and international groups and the painstaking tasks of reconstruction, rehabilitation, and rebuilding continue until the present.

LandsAid as a humanitarian aid organization contributed its share to the international relief efforts to help families affected by Typhoon Yolanda. It sent volunteers to render relief and medical services. In the town of San Remegio, Cebu, LandsAid funded the construction of new houses and repair of more than 300 that were damaged by the typhoon.

It also extended medical assistance to more than 1,500 families in Bogo City and the towns of San Remegio, Medellin, Daanbantayan, in Cebu through four medical missions organized by the Visayas Primary Health Care Services, Inc. (VPHCS) in late 2014.

The assistance for families affected by Typhoon Yolanda continues up to this day through a project with the VPHCS that builds community-based health programs (CBHPs) in three villages, namely: Barangays Dalingding Norte and Paypay in Daanbantayan and Tindog in Medellin which were served during the medical missions.

The project, which started in May 2015, works closely with the farmers and fisherfolks organizations in the three villages.

Building CBHPs in the three villages applies the primary health care approach that addresses the lack of health services in the communities. At the core of the CBHPs are trained community health workers (CHWs) who can treat common illnesses of the residents using simple home remedies such as scientific indigenous herbal plants, water therapy, acupressure, cupping therapy, massage, and common Western medicines. Community health educations equip the people with important knowledge on the causes, treatment and prevention of common health problems in the homes so that health programs such as nutrition, herbal gardens, environmental sanitation, hypertension control and family planning can be established.

Furthermore, since the three communities are vulnerable to suffer adverse effects of disasters particularly typhoons, the project helps the people to protect themselves and to respond to the disasters before outside help arrives. A community-based disaster management (CBDM) program shall be established where the communities through their disaster preparedness committees shall be trained so that they can lead their residents to cope at any time the impact and consequences of disasters.

Such CBHP and CBDM programs of the VPHCS build upon the people’s participation, and strengthen their existing resources, coping strategies and capacities, are empowering, and geared towards the goal of building resilient communities.

Below are messages from community health workers that have been trained by the VPHCS in August and September 2015. They were translated to English from the local Cebuano dialect.


“Our sitio is very far from the rural health unit of Daanbantayan where the only doctor in the town is found. From the main road where the buses pass, we have to take a public motorcycle for a 30-minute P 75 trip through long winding mountain roads, passing large sugar cane plantations. Most of us here are poor sugar cane farm workers and earn P 80 for eight-hour work. We cut the weeds in between the sugar cane plants, put fertilizers, and cut them down in harvest time. The wage is given every Saturday, which is then used to pay our debts for the rice that we had bought for our family during the week.

We are very poor. We cannot afford to pay for the trip to see the doctor. When we get sick, we just use herbal plants. The pharmacy is very far away. We are therefore very happy that VPHCS came here to our far-flung sitio to train us with basic health skills. I want to help others to be healthy so that we will not get sick.” (Teresita, 36 years old, Sitio Gomez, Dalingding Norte, Daanbantayan).


“The VPHCS resource persons taught us how to take blood pressure. Now, as a health worker of our women’s association, I proudly bring the blood pressure apparatus that was given to us and go around the households in my community and take blood pressure. Many of my neighbors are very happy to know that they are not hypertensive. They seldom have their BP taken, maybe once or twice a year only. Those that are hypertensive, I refer them to the rural health unit. But I was told that the VPHCS will have a medical mission in our place in the coming months. We look forward to it.” ( Catherine, 25 years old, Sitio Mayjo, Paypay, Daanbantayan.)


“Now, I know how to use home remedies for common complaints, particularly the use of water. I know when to use hot compress, cold compress, sponge bath for fever, to drink lots of water during diarrhea and respiratory tract infections, steam inhalation for stuffy nose. I also know how to do ventusa or cupping therapy which is a form of massage. We were also taught how to identify if a child has pneumonia by counting the respiratory rate and see if there is difficult breathing. We were also taught how to identify if a child has dehydration from diarrhea. We also know what we can do for the child in our home and when to refer to the doctor. Thank you for the skills we have learned.” (Lorna, 45, Sitio Manan-aw, Tindog, Medellin).


“We are very happy that the VPHCS and LandsAid came to our barangay. We really need health care. Daanbantayan has only one doctor, the government doctor in the health center who is serving the entire municipality. I learned she serves about 100 patients a day. Many people here just bear their illnesses, take medicines without check-up, or do not take medicines at all. But with the LandsAid project, we will be able to able to treat simple illnesses ourselves.” (Analeta, 36, Sitio Mayjo, Paypay, Daanbantayan).

Below are messages from residents who have been treated by trained CHWs.


“I have three children, 7, 5 and 2 years old. We have a small land planted with corn, cassava and bananas. Yolanda greatly affected us. All the plants that we cultivated were all damaged. It took us more than a year to recover. Because of our poverty, our children are small for their age and often have cough and colds. I belong to a women’s organization in our village; we help each other as much as we can. VPHCS with the support of LandsAid taught us many things about health such as proper nutrition for our children. Now, our organization is starting a communal garden planted with vegetables which we shall hopefully harvest in a few weeks to feed our children. “ (Gloria, 54 years old, Sitio Mayjo, Paypay, Daanbantayan.)


“When Mila, our organization’s CHW who was trained by the VPHCS, took my blood pressure last week, it was 160/ 90 mmHg. Mila said I am hypertensive. I don’t have symptoms of hypertension but Mila painstakingly explained to me that I should take medicines in order to control my high blood pressure and prevent complications such as stroke and heart attack. VPHCS gave me amlodipine, an anti-hypertensive medicine which I can buy at P 1.00 only.” (Pedro, 50 yrs old, Sitio Gomez, Dalingding Norte, Daanbantayan.)


“I have two children, 4 years old and 7 years old. I make cassava bun and sell it for our living. My husband is a fisherman who has a small boat. Yolanda Typhoon was a nightmare to us, it destroyed everything, our house and plants in our backyard. It destroyed our small boat. Through the association that we are members of, we received help from non-government organizations, including a new house and repair of our boat. Now, our association has a health program with the VPHCS. Our health is now given attention.” (Maricel, 40 years old, Sitio Manan-aw, Tindog, Medellin.)


“I have three children. My source of living is being hired to cut down sugar cane, for a weekly wage of Php 700. Typhoon Yolanda had a very big impact on our livelihood because it totally damaged our house and banana trees. We had to live in a makeshift hut before we were able to build a small house 4 months later from donations given to us. Last week, during a community clinic of our association, our CHWs gave my children lagundi cough syrup that they made with lagundi leaves available in our place, They also taught us how to make it ourselves.” ( Jose, 43 years old, Sitio Gomez, Dalingding Norte, Daanbantayan.)

Indeed, the support of the community health workers and the people in the three project areas gives the members of the VPHCS the inspiration to continue with the project supported by LandsAid. Helping the people to help themselves in health care.


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