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Serious public health risks in aftermath of Philippine earthquake

18th Oct 2013

International humanitarian organisation Oxfam says that there are serious public health concerns that need to be immediately addressed.  Sagbayan Municipality, and neighbouring areas that were closest to the epicentre of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the Visayas region 15 October, are the worst affected with the greatest number of people living without adequate quantities of safe water and sanitation facilities. 

"Today we heard of cases of diarrhoea, and if we are to prevent its spread and that of other water-borne diseases, affected areas will need guaranteed access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities," says Justin Morgan, Oxfam Country Director for the Philippines. Together with Morgan, Oxfam dispatched its humanitarian team to assess water, sanitation and hygiene conditions, as well as people's means of making a living that have been seriously affected, in the municipalities of Sagbayan, San Isidro, Calape, Tubigon, Clarin and Catigbian . 

"While power has been restored in most areas, water is still not running throughout. There has also been minimal assessment of the damage to water infrastructure, and so Oxfam is recommending that water testing is carried out on all water systems prior to recommencing operation to ensure that contaminated water is not drunk," Morgan added. 

"We need medicines for diarrhoea and other medical supplies" said Dr. RJ Demandante, municipal health officer of Clarin.  Children below five years old are among those now suffering from diarrhoea. Oxfam provided a several hundred bottles of water treatment solution to the Municipal Health Offices in Clarin and Sagbayan where cases of diarrhoea have been reported. 

In other areas markets are still not fully operational, making food availability a major challenge.  Fishing, which is a main source of livelihood in the western side of the island, has been severely affected, as boats and fishing gear have also been destroyed by the earthquake. 

At least 1,846 aftershocks have been recorded since the earthquake hit on October 15.