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Medical care and psychosocial services for survivors of Typhoon Yolanda in Northern Cebu

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 The Visayas Primary Healthcare Services, Inc. (VPHCS) recently conducted two medical and psychosocial support services missions in two municipalities in Cebu which were affected by Typhoon Yolanda,

The missions were conducted in Barangay Batirya, municipality of Daanbantayan approximately 147 kms. at the northern most tip of Cebu on Feb. 1, 2013 and Barangay San Agustin in the municipality of Madridejos in the island of Bantayan which lies to the west of the northern tip of Cebu.

Being located in the northern part of Cebu made them suffer from the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda last November 8, 2013, with many of the houses damaged or toppled down and people rendered homeless and fields of crops and fishing boats destroyed.

The missions were supported by funds raised by Gary W. King, Ph.D., a philanthropist based in Minnesota who is supporting the Philippine Scholars Foundation which has a college scholarship for indigent families in Cebu City.

When the medical and psychosocial team arrived there three months from the tragic calamity, many of the houses had already been repaired and rebuilt from relief support donated by non-government organizations here and abroad as well as the local government units. However, there were still many families who were still unable to rebuild their houses and had to live with other families.

Nearly 600 residents in the two communities were given medical services by our medical team of eight doctors. The medical cases included upper respiratory tract infections, tension headache, tuberculosis, hypertension, skin infections, peptic ulcer disease, anemia, pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and muscle fatigue. All of these diseases were adequately managed in the medical mission with the medicines that were brought by the team.

Several adults also were also seen by the psychosocial team of psychologists and trained counsellors for problems of nervousness, difficulty in sleeping, headaches, irritability and other psychosocial problems which were felt in the aftermath of the typhoon. The psychosocial intervention consisted of stress debriefing through group therapy. Here, the therapists facilitated the survivors to express their experiences and their feelings and how these affected them and to draw out their coping mechanisms. At the end of the sessions, the facilitators identified those who really needed psychosocial and psychiatric treatment which will be done in a follow up mission.

There were also psychosocial activities for children which comprised of play therapy wherein the facilitators engaged the children in play in order to draw out their feelings of fear and anger. The facilitators then processed the emotions expressed during the play. Other activities included art therapy where the children expressed their feelings through drawings after which the facilitators processed the projections of the children. A total of 150 children were beneficiaries in the activities.

Aside from eight doctors and eight psychologists and counselors, the volunteers in the medical and psychosocial services included six VPHCS staff and eight regular VPHCS volunteers of nurses, nursing students and community health workers. A total of 30 persons comprised the team. The missions were also held in partnership with the Women’s Resource Center of Visayas, Inc. (WRCV) which has organized women’s organization in the two areas and provided relief and rehabilitation services for survivors of the typhoon.

Reflection of the psychosocial missions

Generally, the residents expressed their gratitude and joy with the medical and psychosocial activities. The people in both communities really showed the spirit of cooperation, and were very open in expressing their problems, fears and hopes.

For us in the VPHCS, together with our volunteers, we continue to be overwhelmed whenever we recall the experiences that we shared with the farmers and fisherfolks in the two barangays. They are simple, hard-working toilers of the land and fishers of the seas who have simple needs and yet are contented with their lives. We derive inspiration from their toils and their struggles as we reaffirm the values of painstaking work. At the same time, we also recognize the omnipotence and might of the Creator. Being with the children also gave us a sense of joy as they displayed the traits of being simple, truthful and candid.

The people in the northern towns of Cebu indeed have suffered from the disaster that was Typhoon Yolanda and other calamities in the past but they have emerged triumphant and stronger in will and spirit, an indomitable resilience which many of us in the city may not have. We have much to learn from them, indeed.

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