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Friday, February 7, 2014

Fifth SOS mission to Western Samar

Hinabangan, Western Samar -- The fifth Samahan Operasyong Sagip (SOS) medical, psycho-social and relief missions began in two towns of Western Samar – Calbiga and Hinabangan. The four-day mission ended in the town of Pinabacdao, also in Western Samar. SOS is joined by Filipino-American Health Workers’ Association (FAHWA), National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) members from California, USA, counselors from the University of the Philippines Behavioral Science Society, physicians from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and nurses from the Health Students’ Action (HSA).

“Rocky road”

Shortly after 6:00 in the morning, the team from Manila arrived at the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport in Tacloban City and proceeded to Palo, Leyte to pick up additional medicines for the four-day mission. Services include medical consultation, provision of prescribed medicines and psycho-social counseling to children through play and art therapy.

Notwithstanding the heat and difficult terrain that led to Hinabangan, volunteers rode several habal-habal or single motorcycles that brought them to the upland barangays of said town.

Habal-Habal drivers fix a loose chain of the motorcycle in Hinabangan, Western Samar

Hinabangan is back dropped by sloping mountain trails that blanketed the province’s entire panorama. Local habal-habal drivers expertly maneuvered the unforgiving rocks that served as permanent obstacles in the only main road that served several upland villages. Passengers needed to grope for the right balance as the motorcycles traversed the “rocky road” to Kanano Elementary School in Brgy. Kanano, Hinabangan, the main venue of the mission. One of the rented motorcycles broke down twice but the volunteers’ spirits were not dampened. Instead, they further understood the hardships what Kanano residents had to endure in travelling to and from the village. They also observed that instead of cementing the entire road to make transportation safer, faster and easier, only several patches in steep areas were paved. The rest were left in dire need of rehabilitation.

Livelihood lost

A local farmer from Brgy. Kanano, Hinabangan shared that Typhoon Yolanda damaged all of their vegetable crops. Vegetable farming in this side of town is the people’s main source of food and income.

“Before Typhoon Yolanda, we expected a bountiful harvest of vegetable and corn. But Yolanda took everything away. Vegetables and ginger rotted on the ground because the soil was saturated with rain,” he said. “Even cassava plants were destroyed,” he added.

The farmer estimated his family’s lost income at P20,000 and added that almost all farmers in their village lost a substantial amount of income leaving them unsure of where to get the next meal for the table in the coming days.

Health status unmonitored

Arriving in Hinabangan, the team quickly prepared for the mission that will start after lunch. The team was set with different sections strategically positioned in the classroom-turned-clinic/pharmacy. Men and women residents volunteered for the registration, vital signs, pharmacy and other technical work.

Folks young and old alike suffer from hypertension

Shortly, patients from the host barangay and the adjacent village, Brgy. Yabon, started pouring in. Nurse volunteers Erlinda and Ana Cadiz of FAHWA observed many cases of hypertension among the elderly, upper respiratory tract infection and musculo-skeletal pain among the general patients.

“Hypertension is not monitored among the population since Barangay Health Workers (BHW) do not have a single BP apparatus,” observed Dr. Sheila Corrales of Health Empowerment for Leyte and Samar (HEALS).

Four pregnant women also sought pre-natal check-ups. Asked where they planned to give birth, all of them said they plan to deliver at home despite the town’s prohibition of home deliveries because they “cannot afford the fees” being imposed by the Rural Health Unit in Hinabangan. According to them, P1,000 is charged for a first born while succeeding births are charged P500 each. “Where will we get that much money when we can barely make both ends meet?” a young mother of two explained.

Songs and crayons

As their parents queued for medical check-ups, some twenty children filled another classroom with songs and shrieks of laughter.

Third year students of University of the Philippines (UP) Behavioral Science class led the songs and dances that made the children at ease with their peers and new “teachers.” Colored crayons, papers and pencils were distributed to each child to serve as medium to express their feelings.

UP Behavioral Science students encourage kids to draw themselves inside their homes when Typhoon Yolanda struck
Little by little, the kids, age 4 to 12, drew what they were doing and how they felt during Typhoon Yolanda’s wrath. Some drew a stick figure with arms stretched out inside a house and with the words nahahadlok or fear in the Waray language.

Over coffee and tanglad (lemongrass) tea, the group later explained to the SOS team that stretched arms could mean “seeking love or attention.” They recommended that mothers and fathers can be enjoined through “parent-child education” on how to promote positive affirmation to improve parent-child connection inside the home. The session was done the next day, February 8.

(As the first day of work ended for the team in Hinabangan, everybody was treated to a gastronomic dinner of fried fish, wingbean and taro in coconut milk prepared by the community.)

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