Responding to disasters and emergencies

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Medicine Cabinet

THE continuing unrest of Mayon Volcano has to date affected nearly 22,000 families, accounting for over 83,600 persons from 61 barangays in nine municipalities and cities of Albay province. Although the feared hazardous eruption has thankfully yet to occur, weeks of lava and lahar flow and ash fall have resulted in almost P165 billion in agricultural damage as well as the suspension of classes in many areas of the province. About 69,000 affected residents are currently staying inside 69 designated evacuation centers, while almost 10,000 persons are being served outside the evacuation centers.

Due to massive evacuations, the government has committed P50 million worth of assistance in addition to funds coming the Departments of Social Welfare and Development and Health, and the Office of Civil Defense, among others. Bigger and sustained relief initiatives are needed to address the growing requirements of the thousands of affected Albay residents.

Last week, a team from the PHAPCares Foundation traveled to Legazpi City and distributed 3,500 masks and 1,000 food packs for families temporarily staying at the Bagumbayan Elementary School. In coordination with the men and women of the Social Action Center, ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya, and the Albay Provincial Health Office, close to 4,200 evacuees were served by this collective effort. Following this, a medical mission with volunteer doctors will be held to complement national and local government initiatives.

Through its medicines donation program, PHAPCares works with government agencies and NGOs to enhance peoples’ access to essential and life-saving medicines. Through the years, it has actively carried out humanitarian support whenever the country is struck by natural and man-made calamities. In November 2013, PHAPCares and its members donated P110 million worth of medicines and relief items to families affected by supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Earlier that year, more than P5 million worth of medicines and relief assistance was dispatched to Zamboanga City, to aid families affected by the armed conflict. In another armed conflict, an initial P1 million worth of essential medicines and relief items were provided to families displaced by the siege of Marawi City.

There is recognition that apart from government forces and combatants, civilians suffer the most during complex emergencies like armed conflicts. The health of evacuees is often compromised, especially those belonging to vulnerable groups such as children, women, and the elderly. As observed in various countries, pre-existing health conditions may be exacerbated or diseases may emerge following natural or man-made disasters.

In efforts to build resiliency, the Foundation has partnered with the Metro Manila Development Authority for the cascade of the Earthquake and Landslide Search and Rescue Orientation Course (ELSAROC) and initiated various fora on the public health impact of disasters and armed conflicts.

Now on its 15th year, PHAPCares is committed more than ever to fulfill its mission of promoting public health and the welfare of Filipinos, particularly the underprivileged and those affected by natural and man-made disasters.

The author is the executive director of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). Medicine Cabinet is a column that aims to promote awareness on public health and health care-related issues. PHAP and its member companies represent the research-based pharmaceutical and health care industry. For comments and inquiries, e-mail the author at