Rescue and relief activities for the landslides in Southern Leyte Island

Report from Miki Kobayashi and Megumi Fujigaki, Midwifes of the Japanese Red Cross Nagoya Daini and Gifu Hospitals

We left Manila, capital of the Philippines, early in the morning of 25th February 2006 and in the afternoon of the same day, we arrived at the disaster stricken site in Saint Bernard on Southern Leyte Island. For the next week, we helped a medical team comprised of two doctors and nurses from the Philippine National Red Cross(PNRC) delivering health care to the people affected by the massive landslide on 17th February 2006.

Heavy rain was continuously pouring on the day we arrived, which made the ground soaked and muddy. The unpredictable weather led the people to fear another landslides. The situation was very tense which overwhelmed us the terrible power of the nature. A large portion of the mountain had fallen down and the muds had swallowed the village at the bottom, about 1,500 inhabitants.

The site called 'ground zero' the rescue effort had been terminated before we got there, as it was believed that there was no possibility of finding any more survivors. We saw flowers and sweets everywhere, offering to the victims. The reality of more than 900 people was still buried with little chance of their bodies ever being found made this scene extremely painful. We were sad and mournful.

Our team from PNRC, opened first aid centres in four of the seven shelters established by the Philippine Red Cross. At the centre, we provided the affected people with health check, counselling, free medicines and health education while we conducted surveys of the hygiene condition in the shelters. Everyday, about 200 patients had visited the centres complaining about their poor health, insomnia, anxiety, etc.

As it was after the emergency assistance phase, most of the cases were internal diseases such as colds, bronchitis, abdominal pain, headaches and hypertension. Because the level of the medical services in the affected area is generally low, even people who were not affected by the disaster came to the centres seeking treatment and medication. The same situation was occurred in the relief activities following the earthquake in Bam, Iran in 2003 as well as Tsunami in Sumatra, Indonesia in 2004.

The survivors were suffering from psychological damage when the natural disaster like this landslide hit the peoples' life all of a sudden. They could not sleep, thinking about their terrible experience when the mountain slide has happened. The affected people were scared by the idea of the disaster might happen again. Besides, their hearts were devastated by grief of their lost families, friends, and their homes and were hoping to go back. Some of the staff from PNRC listened to them during their medical consultation, during medicine distributions and even when they provided health education, offering the psychological support.

However, we received a lot of words of gratitude from the survivors for the heartfelt care provided by the staff. Those words made me realise the warm heart of the people in the affected area as well as sense of trust towards the Red Cross.

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