Typhoon Ondoy hit Manila on 26-27 September. Then on 3 October Typhoon Pepeng hammered northern Luzon. By 25 October, the death toll had risen to 850, with 1.3 million living in flood conditions.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
I was really looking forward to October as it was going to be my first ‘normal’ month of work since May. And then on 26 September, the worst flooding in over 40 years hit the capital of Philippines.
At one point, 80 per cent of the huge metropolis was under water … and this is in an area where overcrowding is normal and people barely eke out a living in their shanty towns.
Hundreds of thousands of people lost everything they owned. The director of ACTION asked if I could help with the medical relief efforts. So I asked my boss if I could take 2-3 weeks off work and assist with the relief work, to which I received a resounding ‘Yes!’
So here I sit in Tokyo airport waiting for my next flight to Manila. I know this is not going to be a ‘fun’ trip. I will see life-changing things and I pray I don’t desensitise myself to the blatant suffering and needs.
In addition to being on the front-lines of relief, I will be helping to coordinate US medical teams.
Thursday, 8 October
Yesterday I tagged along with the SITeam (Street Impact Team) to visit a church hosting disaster relief for a sister church completely submerged in the flood. About 25 families received basic supplies, including pots and pans, vitamins, a mat to sleep on, and plates and utensils.
Along with another medically trained Filipina, I shared about how to stay healthy in these conditions and what to do in case of a cough, fever, or diarrhoea; and how to purify their water.
We had some donated antibiotics and I brought some first aid supplies. People came to me for medicines and to get questions answered and wounds cleaned. A lot were complaining of a cough, so we had a mucolytic to hand out and a few antibiotics.
Friday, 9 October
Today was the survey trip to Marikina and, boy, do we have our work cut out for us! Our first stop was in the worst hit areas, and it was bad.
At one point, there was trash piled up so high in the road that there was barely an inch of clearance on either side of our vehicle. It was filled with everything imaginable, from a destroyed karaoke machine to a child’s rocking horse.
It reeked like a pigsty. Free standing water was everywhere. I carried my pack of basic first aid supplies with me everywhere.
Pretty soon, one of the Filipinas called me over to a little girl and her mother. Roseann had been submerged in the flood waters before she was rescued. Her head had been sliced and she was bleeding. She had fungus covering her head and ears; it was everywhere.
The Filipina aid worker and I did the best we could to treat it, but I know that unless she gets further help the fungus will spread unchecked. I gave the mom what little hydrogen peroxide and iodine I had. We need a medical team here soon.
Saturday, 10 October
Today I tagged along with the SITeam to a children’s outreach near the San Juan river. A Canadian provided entertainment and a gospel message to the kids, many of whom had lost everything. The kids also received school supplies, which they held close and counted as riches.
Later, we all travelled to the area where these kids live in filth and poverty. There are no words to describe the scene. The river was full of bubbles from decomposing matter in its depths, the houses ravaged, the kids malnourished and the adults begged for assistance.
Tomorrow I will be accompanying my parents to a church that has been feeding 300 malnourished children for several weeks. My mom has been asked to speak and I will take the opportunity to treat medical needs.
Monday, 12 October
I spent most of the day developing tendonitis. Just kidding, but it sure felt like I would get it, with all the texting and e-mailing different suppliers, doctors, volunteers, and such, in order to set up the clinics starting on Thursday.
My goal is to hold ten clinics in the next two weeks I am here. That is 1-2 clinics per day with 150 patients per clinic. Tomorrow I will be attending a meeting with pastors from over the city, who have been affected by the flooding.
Praise God I have three doctors lined up for Thursday and one for Friday. I am buying supplies in faith that we will have the personnel needed to run the clinics.
Tuesday, 13 October
ACTION’s founder Doug Nichols has seen that in spite of the losses, pastors and local church members were still facing the trials with joy (James 1). They continue to be grateful and sacrificial, exhibiting the mind of Christ.
So today Doug arranged a praise service for them. It included a time of worship, a message of encouragement from Doug, a time for testimony, and time for future planning.
I connected with the pastors, passed out medications for them (multivitamins and anti-diarrhoeal), and continued to coordinate the clinics. I now have ten clinics planned!
The need is great, and we can surely do more, but our funds are limited to ten. Praise God for doctors volunteering their time to help!
Thursday, 15 October
This morning ACTION workers Dave and Becky Majam, Frank Egalla, Jeff Anderson (field director) and I were joined by five volunteer doctors and one nurse.
Our first clinic was in the middle of a small road that leads to an area still under water. We served about 180-200 people in the morning and saw plenty of skin diseases, coughs, diarrhoea and bronchitis.
After a quick lunch we headed to the next clinic location in another part of the floodway. This was in an evacuation centre on a covered basketball court. The other nurse and I triaged the patients and sent them to the appropriate doctors.
They were then sent up to the ‘pharmacy’ for medications and instructions. Each patient received a gospel tract and saw the compassion of Christ in those who served them.
At this clinic we served about 160 patients, including a young man with leptospirosis – a rat-urine disease that abounds in flooded conditions. It is a deadly disease and many are dying from it.
We were able to start this young man on antibiotics early and will be praying for his healing. He cannot afford hospitalisation, even if he needs it.
Friday, 16 October
Today was spent in an encouraging ACTION team meeting. Because of the trauma and exhaustion, after a brief message from the field director, the microphone was opened for people to share how God had provided for them and any continuing needs they had.
It was incredible to hear all they had been through. One worker had his entire home submerged in the water. He had to swim through his living room to escape the flood waters, and his wife who cannot swim nearly didn’t make it. When was the last time you went swimming in your living room?
Tomorrow is a clinic in a ravaged area of Marikina. It is in the low-lying areas, inhabited by the poor, that the stench and filth remain; it is to these areas that we are going.
Saturday, 17 October
Tomorrow’s Sunday, and time for a rest. It’s been a very busy week to say the least. This morning we had a wonderful clinic at a church, assisted by ACTION missionary Steve Read.
Steve, his wife Rita, and two kids were there to help, along with four medical residents from a local hospital. My mom and many volunteers helped ensure the clinic ran efficiently.
Praise God, a prayer partner and his family were able to purchase 2500 needed tablets of zinc (for diarrhoea and pneumonia).
Monday, 19 October
Today was the kick-off for a very busy week of clinics, with two in Marikina. We saw around 325 patients spread over two doctors and one nurse (me). We had several more nurses helping with triage at the first location. Each patient was prayed with twice and had the wordless book shared with them.
They also had a chance to be counselled for grief and loss from the flood. Next they were seen by nurse volunteers, then doctors, then on to the pharmacy. It was a long and productive morning.
This afternoon we were on the street again under a tarp and saw lots of fungus, three cases of leptospirosis, a man with a fly-covered dog bite on his leg, and much more!
We ran out of some medications … and we have five clinics left! Thank goodness we only have an afternoon clinic tomorrow. My mother and I will be getting up early to pick up necessary medications for the next five clinics.
Wednesday, 21 October
It’s hard to believe we’ve held seven clinics in just 7 days! I cannot imagine how tired the team is, many of whom have been doing relief work for three weeks straight.
Today we were in Tumana. I saw so much filth and stench, and yet the people were so grateful for every bit of help they received.
ACTION held a clinic this morning and then a clothing distribution this afternoon. And they could have used so much more.
Thursday, 22 October
We will be travelling near Laguna Lake, which is still swollen and not expected to go down for some months. I was warned to bring my boots, as there is still 1-2 feet of water outside the church door, though the church is dry.
Donations can be made to ACTION’s ‘Disaster relief in Manila’ at: www.actioninternational.org