Philippines: the road to Santa Fe

The MSF team offer race to provide medical care to people injured after the typhoon...

One, two, three…12 MSF people arrive ….. one at a time, each carrying a cup of coffee. It’s very important to have a coffee when you’re on the job! There's such a mixture of nationalities here. Our roles and tasks are assigned at 8.30am, we then head out for Santa Fe. There we will divide into two groups: one will go to the medical centre, the other to the evacuation camp.

MSF Philippines

One the road to Santa Fe ©Caroline Van Nespen

The scene is one of more and more devastation as we go along. In part because we are heading for the epicentre of the typhoon but also because this is a rural area and the houses are made of plaited palm leaves and are less sturdy. These extremely flimsy constructions are unable to withstand winds of up to 300 km per hour.   We tell the authorities of our arrival as soon as we get there and the tam tam does the rest. Very soon a long queue forms in front of the medical centre. So many, many people!

They have come for diverse reasons: Wounds with various degrees of seriousness, fever, coughing,chronic illnesses, bronchitis…..   We are surprised to hear that since typhoon “Yolanda” struck ten days ago, these people have received no aid whatsoever. Cut off from electricity supplies and with no means of communication they are totally alone. The two doctors, Emma and Tankred get straight down to work.

MSF Philippines Tacloban emergency typhoon Haiyan

Dr Tankred assessing a young patient ©Caroline Van Nespen/MSF

Our teams hard at work ©Caroline Van Nespen/MSF

They only stop five hours later after having seen to the majority of patients, 90 in total. The centre is bursting at the seams. The less serious cases will have to wait until tomorrow. At the same time, Elin, an infectious illnesses specialist, together with her team will give 54 consultations in the evacuation centre of the town which is the only refuge for those who have nothing.  

MSF Philippines Tacloban emergency typhoon Haiyan

MSF in action ©Caroline Van Nespen/MSF

At 10pm it’s time to clear up as the journey back is long.Tomorrow the MSF teams will return to Santa Fe. The following days they will go further afield to the villages forgotten by everybody.