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Increased assistance needed for Typhoon survivors

Increased assistance needed to address disabilities
in wake of Typhoon Yolanda

MANILA, Philippines, 3 December 2013 — The World Health Organization (WHO) says people who sustained serious injuries from Typhoon Yolanda need greater access to rehabilitation and other critical services.

“Hospitals in Manila and across the affected region are already treating around 20 people with spinal cord injuries, dozens with amputations and many more with serious fractures,” says Dr Julie Hall, WHO Representative in the Philippines. “With some of the more remote areas now accessible, we’re also seeing a second wave of people reaching hospitals with injuries.”

Disasters like Typhoon Yolanda can create a new generation of people with disabilities when the injured do not always have timely access to medical and rehabilitation services.

WHO is also concerned about the welfare of people who were living with disabilities prior to the disaster. Typically, people with disabilities are more vulnerable during emergencies because they are less able to escape from hazards and often lose essential medications or assistive devices during disasters.

“Items like glasses, hearing aids and wheel chairs were swept away by the storm or left behind by people trying to flee,” says Hall. “One can only imagine the terror of being caught in a storm of this magnitude and not being able to run for cover or see a path to safety.”

WHO has been working alongside the Philippine Department of Health to coordinate the emergency heath response—dispatching more than 60 foreign medical teams to the storm-hit towns and cities to revive medical services, including rehabilitation therapy and mental health assistance. WHO is also working with nongovernmental partners to develop a directory of service providers aiding people with disabilities in order to speed up referrals and improve access for those who need specialized support.

But Hall says more is needed to ensure people with disabilities have sufficient food, water, shelter, latrines, health services and equipment, including artificial limbs and mobility devices.

“Rehabilitation for those who have been injured and ensuring those with disabilities can once again perform everyday activities will be vital to helping them return to their communities and rebuild their lives and livelihoods,” says Hall.


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