Responding to Typhoon Haiyan

A rural health unit damaged by typhoon Yolanda.


By Shawn D’Andrea, MD
Attending Physician, BWH Emergency Medicine

The week before Thanksgiving, the disaster medicine section of the American College of Emergency Physicians(ACEP) circulated a request for physicians to participate in ongoing humanitarian relief operations in the Philippines in response to  typhoon Haiyan, also known as typhoon Yolanda. On Nov. 27, I arrived at Roxas City on the island of Panay, Philippines, to join a small group of physicians and nurses with a non-government organization engaged in relief efforts.

The group that had sent the request through ACEP, Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a small, all volunteer U.S. medical non-government organization which has functioned in several disaster settings and defines itself as an organization able to access and function in difficult-to-reach and austere settings.  Following typhoon Yolanda, the group partnered with the Philippine Red Cross and later a regional health department on Panay island to support medical needs in the relief effort.  When I arrived shortly before Thanksgiving, RAM, coordinating with the regional health department and other relief organizations, was performing daily missions to the rural areas of Panay island to provide direct medical care to patients in areas affected by the storm. While the regional health department has an extensive network of local health offices and clinics, the storm left the health infrastructure severely damaged.  The role of medical relief organizations, under the direction of the regional health authority, was to assess the health needs of communities following the disaster,  provide direct patient care during relief and recover phases of the disaster, and to provide ongoing disease surveillance. Continue reading “Responding to Typhoon Haiyan”