During our last day in the Philippines, we were able to travel from Concepcion town to the Barangay, or town, of Macatunao on Quiniluban Island. The Municipality of Concepcion is on the northeast coast of Panay and was the fifth landfall point of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Of the roughly 50,000 people living in Concepcion, nearly half of them live in a string of 11 islands off the coast of the mainland in extremely exposed conditions. Families on Macatunao told us that when the storm hit, the 5,000 people in the village ran up to the top of a mountain and waited out the storm for six hours.
Luckily, everyone survived, but 100 percent of the homes were damaged or destroyed, leaving the people to sleep in extremely cramped conditions in the school and the single health station, which also sustained much damage, for over a month.
Additionally, almost all of their boats were destroyed. That not only affects their livelihoods (the primary source of income for these island communities is fishing) but also their ability to get to the mainland for food, water, and medical care.
In the Philippines, the first point of medical care is the Barangay Health Station (BHS). Ideally, there is one health station per Barangay and they are typically staffed by a midwife. Frequently, women will deliver their babies at these health stations; families will receive primary care services there; and it is where children will receive their vaccinations. For the health care system to work, it is crucial that these stations are intact and functional.
Working with longtime partner Access Aid International (AAI), Direct Relief made a three-pronged commitment to improve the health care and infrastructure in these island communities by:
- Providing immediate health care services after Yolanda (Haiyan) struck
- Rebuilding two critical Barangay Health Stations
- Providing essential training to 50 Barangay Health Workers
Visit the Direct Relief blog over the next several days to read more of my stories about these projects.