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Philippines Scrambles To Avert Public Health Crisis

6:20 PM, Nov 12, 2013   |    comments
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ORMOC, Philippines - The race to save survivors and bring relief to typhoon-ravaged areas of the Philippines escalated Tuesday as the United Nations appealed for as much as $301 million in aid, and several nations deployed supply ships in an attempt to ward off the growing threat of a public health crisis.

Four days after Typhoon Haiyan struck the eastern Philippines, killing an estimated 10,000 people and displacing as many as 800,000, assistance is only just beginning to arrive.

"We worry about whether our medical supplies will be enough for the people. We also worry about disease breaking out, especially up in Tacloban, where so many died," dentist Mariecon Dayandayan, 26, who has been assisting doctors treating residents injured in Friday's mega-storm, told USA TODAY.

Ormoc, on the western side of hard-hit Leyte island, is a mess of fallen trees and other debris, while power and telecoms cables lie underfoot or hang perilously at head height across many streets.

Dayandayan said that the city's health office has a generator, so is able to keep cool its badly needed vaccines, including for tetanus. "Some other hospitals and clinics are damaged and have no electricity, so they are not operating," she said.

Garrett Ingoglia, vice president of emergency response for AmeriCares, a non-profit that responds to humanitarian crises domestically, and abroad, said the storm left people injured with abrasions, lacerations, and worse. "Plus on top of it are all the people with chronic illnesses that they had before. But the supply of medical supplies has been drastically reduced. Medicines have been washed away. People's personal supply of medicines from health facilities are gone. Many health facilities have been destroyed entirely," Ingoglia said. "So you've got spiking demand because of the disaster and a vastly reduced supply of all types of medicines to treat people. In some places it's desperate."

Speaking to reporters in Manila on Tuesday, Valerie Amos, the U.N.'s undersecretary for general humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, said: "We've just launched an action plan focusing on the areas of food, health, sanitation, shelter, debris removal and also protection of the most vulnerable with the government and I very much hope our donors will be generous. That plan is for $301 million."

The U.N. estimates that as many as 2.5 million people are in need of food.

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