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Dealing with the aftermath of Typhoon Washi in the Philippines

More than 1,250 Filipinos are now known to have died during Typhoon Washi and over 100 are still missing.

4,443 people were injured during the disaster, which left over 48,000 houses damaged. Nearly 8,000 families are living in 54 evacuation centres, while over 72,000 families are residing elsewhere. Supplies of items such as sleeping mats, mosquito nets and cooking sets have been distributed, but more temporary and transitional accommodation is needed. Survivors will also require psycho-social support.

Electricity and water have been restored to many of the affected areas and tankers are delivering water to evacuation centres. However, locals outside the centres are falling ill from water left by the flooding. Hospitals in northern Mindanao have already treated 128 cases of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals, particularly rats. Outbreaks of the disease occur from exposure to contaminated water, often through cuts or broken skin. With the extensive flooding of Typhoon Washi, hospitals in the region have been put on alert. 

Those infected with leptospirosis can suffer from headaches, fever and vomiting. In severe cases, it leads to meningitis, internal bleeding and organ failure. Already, 4 people are believed to have died from the disease. Many of those being admitted to hospital are young men who have been involved in the clear-up of flooded houses and therefore exposed to contaminated water. After a typhoon in 2009, more than 2000 cases of leptospirosis were recorded, leading to 167 deaths. Medical facilities in northern Mindanao are therefore preparing themselves for more cases and have received diagnostic kits which test for early symptoms.

The Philippine Red Cross has mobilised extra volunteers to help limit the outbreak and sent supplies of antibiotics to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City. The organisation will also be distributing information materials to raise greater awareness of the health threat. The IFRC’s representative to the country said “this outbreak is the last thing that these people need” and warned of the pressing need to find safe accommodation for families that have lost their homes. 

The estimated cost of damage to infrastructure, agriculture and school buildings has been put at around 32 million dollars by a report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). However, the NDRRMC acknowledged that following the declaration of a State of National Calamity, the area has received “overwhelming support from the national and international community.” This has included immediate funding released by the Philippines government for reconstruction and significant donations of money, emergency supplies and assistance from a whole range of non-governmental organisations.

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