Category Archives: Disaster

Children of Tacloban

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Children are among the most vulnerable in any disaster.
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Not only are their bodies more prone to greater injury and suffering, but they are the ones who suffer the longest from psychosocial trauma.

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Children are not little adults, and their needs are so different in every way, ranging from nutrition, medicine administration, and ability to communicate their needs.

And if they’re an unaccompanied minor, they’re even more vulnerable.

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The youngest and those with certain disabilities cannot even escape the danger without help from an older person.

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Many children in the schools were trapped on the first floor and drowned when the storm surge came. Those who were on higher floors survived.

I mentioned in the previous post the babies all placed into boxes and quickly brought to safety on the second floor of the hospital where an intern was working.

An important part of their recovery and healing is to resume normal activities as soon as possible, such as meals, school and play.

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I was reading that UNICEF was opening several Child-Friendly Spaces last week in the area, which is one of their areas of expertise.

The next wave of problems, now that we’re 4 weeks out, is illness and deaths due to malnutrition and starvation in a population that already had high malnutrition rates in children under 5 pre-disaster.

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One of Dr. Chopstix’s patients was a 3-year old girl he saw the day they had clinic in the most severely affected area.

Her mother said every time she saw the ocean she covered her ears and got really scared.

During the clinic that day, the wind started whipping up the tarps again, and the team could see the fear returning to people’s eyes.

Eyes already haunted by utter destruction of everything around them.

Somebody asked the village leader for a table, and he just raised his hands and said he had no idea where they might be.

I cannot imagine how incapacitated one might feel after the whole world has been thrown into a blender and flung out at random.

Including your most precious children.
Missing.
What a horrible word.

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One unforgettable story goes like this:

A woman was on her wooden bed with her 4 month old infant son when the storm hit at 6 am in the San Jose district.

The winds tore apart her home, and the wave of water carried her bed out onto the bay and across the wind-whipped sea about 5 km over to another part of Tacloban.

She managed to cling to the bed and hold onto her baby, and eventually they reached the other side.

When the water receded, they were sitting on the roof of a house very close to her church.

Miraculously she was able to keep the baby alive and warm by holding him close to her chest and breastfeeding him.

Yet another reason to promote breastfeeding everywhere, all the time.

Second miracle, all the parishioners from that particular church managed to survive the storm, and a core group are committed to helping rebuild.

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Tacloban Part I: Bird’s Eye

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A few days ago Mr. Chopstix returned from an unforgettable trip to Tacloban, Philippines.

He was recruited for a one-week medical relief trip and departed a few days later.

They arrived on site about 2 weeks after Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) devastated large parts of the Philippine islands on Nov 8.

Including the airport.
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Above you can see locals lined up to board a plane going away from there.

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Security was visible everywhere, and many police officers and soldiers came from other parts of the country since the local force was decimated by the disaster.

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This was the astrodome building where many fled to for safety, but due to the roof blowing off, water from the storm surge flowing in and a resultant whirlpool effect at the ground level, the crowd panicked and some were killed in a stampede.

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Along with housing demolished everywhere, the hospitals were all affected to varying degrees, as seen above.
Due to the 10-12 foot waves flooding the area with the storm surge, hospital generators were destroyed as well.

Many other countries set up field hospitals around the city, while China’s Peace Ark was anchored in the bay.
This 4-story fully equipped floating hospital is available for surgeries, ICU, NICU and other high-level care currently not available on land.

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Arien, the young intern doctor seen above working with their team, was working when the storm hit.
She told of a patient who just completed surgery, who stood up to run away and started bleeding everywhere.
Another patient receiving a blood transfusion also leaped up with blood spraying everywhere.
The NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) was on the ground floor getting flooded, and the staff had to quickly place the infants in cardboard boxes and take them up to another floor.
Meanwhile, Arien had no idea for at least 3 days if her family was alive.
Her dedication to medicine and Christian service was tested in a major way.

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They saw over 900 patients in 5 clinic days, with many receiving wound care, vaccination for tetanus and measles, and countless in need of psychosocial care after such a traumatic event.
One police officer epitomized in my husband’s mind the unspoken heroes staying behind to work despite their own grief and losses and uncertainties.
As he was talking, it became apparent that his shortness of breath was in fact not asthma but likely related to anxiety attacks at night.
Yet he was committed to helping others.

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Boats on land, trucks in the sea.
Pieces of homes everywhere.
A foul smell in the air reminded one of the unsearched piles of rubble and 1799 persons who are still missing.

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Will this city turn into a ghost town?
With God’s help, hopefully rebuilding can be a part of the healing process of the soul as well as the city.