Today we took our mobile clinic to a huge dump-site just outside Ormuc city on Leyte island as we’d received news that the families living there, collecting and recycling garbage, were especially vulnerable after the typhoon stuck. Our small team saw the very temporary shelters that the residents had re-established after the deadly storm. It was sad for me to see their poor and basic living conditions, barely able to dress and feed their kids.
I asked them where they had hidden since it was obvious that none of their shelters could have withstood the storm. They indicated an old rusty truck where some had found cover in the back for the worst hours. Others stood close to bending banana trees while another family wrapped themselves in plastic sheets and lay on the ground, hoping to survive. They were curious to see us, pale strangers who otherwise never make it to this town, let alone this unpleasant part of it, and who had come to offer them free healthcare.
We treated over 60 patients this morning, first sitting under the hot sun. When the rain set it we moved under one of newly constructed roofs. The vast majority of patients were young children under five: they got sick after the typhoon and all were suffering from the common cold. Some of them also suffered from diarrhoea and some presented with wounds caused by flying debris. When we left, we felt like family members in this warm-hearted community.
No working day in a disaster area starts with a decent night’s sleep – what else it can offer? When I got a room in our very basic location, missing electricity, running water and decent food, I was happy – most people have to accept worse conditions around here these days. The place looked mainly dry, the roof above this part of the building had not been blown away.
When I opened the door, the first living creature that greeted me was a huge, fist-size cockroach sitting on my bed. Well, at least I was not alone. But what kept me awake all night was not this monster-insect but innumerable mosquitoes that were feasting on me and that I didn’t manage to kill. If there was any chance to catch malaria and dengue together – this was my night to get sick.
When I finally got up in the morning I felt tortured, sleepy and miserable and when I left my bed, the cockroach lay flat on my linen, unintentionally squeezed to death underneath me. The dozens of mosquitoes survived unharmed and are now waiting to turn the sleep of the next guest in this room into a nightmare again.