From the front lines: On the ground

2013-11-21 08:19
Doctors with SA aid organisation Gift of the Givers are seen treating patients at a church damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. (Dr Mounin Kotchi, Gift of the Givers)

Doctors with SA aid organisation Gift of the Givers are seen treating patients at a church damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. (Dr Mounin Kotchi, Gift of the Givers)

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Palompon - The Philippine city of Palompon was a victim of Typhoon Haiyan. Most of its building structures, including houses and municipal offices were damaged by the storm.  
Most people have to rebuild their homes while trying to continue with the rest of their lives as it was before the storm.
But the people of this city display great resilience. In the evenings locals gather in the town square where a projector has been set up showing movies while free electricity is provided, allowing people to charge their cellphones and other devices.

But Haiyan's power was undeniable and reached beyond mere infrastructure damage. Many people who were treated by Gift of the Givers doctor Mounin Kotchi had hypertension and anxiety.
At the local hospital, determined nurses work in almost complete darkness for most of the day. They're lucky to have generators running for a few hours in the evening, giving them just a little light to work with for a while.

Hospital unusable

When I came upon the hospital, patients were on beds on the first floor hallway. Some of them were on the floor.

Typhoon Haiyan had rendered much of the hospital unusable. Little flickers of light were seen now and then as some nurses with flashlights checked on the sick.

Down the hospital's left passage were most of the patients, one of them an elderly woman speaking things unknown to me in one or other Philippines language.
Down the right were just two patients. The nurse, Andrea, held a flashlight as we walked, shining the light on a patient she said had TB and warned me to be careful. Further down, right at the end of the passage and around the corner was an old man. We had to walk past ruined rooms to get to him.
Andrea shined a flashlight on him and I saw he was a withered elderly man. He was admitted on 9 November. No one had come to claim him so the hospital was forced to keep him.

The man refused to eat, said Andrea, adding that it was difficult for staff to change his nappy. This much was evident by the smell.
Waiting for the inevitable

I went up to him and tried offering words of comfort. This was a dumb idea seeing as I don't speak any of the Philippine languages (something one can get away with here because most Filipinos' English is very good). The nurse also said that the man was not of sound mind.

I said hello and got ramblings in another language as a response. My stupidity continued as I asked the man how he was. My excuse is that I was taken aback by the state of him - his legs crouched to his bony body, his skin slackened by lack of weight, his soiled nappy loose around his person.

I probably thought a kind ear might have helped him feel better.

All I could do was walk away. There was barely anything the nurses could do. It seems as if they’re just waiting for the inevitable.

- News24's Lauren Hess is in the Philippines with SA aid organisation Gift of the Givers. Follow Lauren on Twitter for the latest updates.

Read more on:    gift of the givers  |  phillipines  |  typhoon haiyan

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