ORMOC CITY, Philippines - The first medical team from the Singapore Red Cross has arrived in the city of Ormoc, Leyte province, with plans to run mobile clinics to tackle health-care problems in the Philippine city.
The team of nine, comprising three doctors, three nurses, an art therapist, an operations and logistics volunteer and a staff member, arrived Wednesday by ferry from Cebu.
The Singapore Red Cross' director of services, Mr Sahari Ani, arrived last week to assess the situation. He plans to split the group into two teams to run mobile clinics at different locations.
"One mobile clinic should be able to serve about 20,000 survivors at one location," said Mr Sahari.
"The hospitals have been destroyed by the typhoon... operating theatres, intensive care units are all gone."
Besides attending to immediate medical needs on the ground, the Singapore team is also looking to use art therapy to help children cope with trauma.
Mrs Laurence Vandenborre, founder of The Red Pencil, a humanitarian outfit in Singapore focusing on art therapy, said drawing helps to calm children who have been traumatised or displaced by disasters.
"We need to be there for them right from the start. The earlier we address the trauma, the less chance that the children will remain wounded," said Mrs Vandenborre.
She came with the team to assess the situation and plans to send two art therapists with each Red Cross team deployed to Ormoc.
On Nov 8, thousands of people were killed when Super Typhoon Haiyan swept through central Philippines. The strong winds generated tsunami-like waves which flattened entire communities and left close to four million people homeless.
Mr Sahari said it was after careful assessment of the situation that he decided to deploy his team to Ormoc even though Talcoban, capital of Leyte province, is the worst-hit city.
"The magnitude of devastation in Ormoc may not be the same as Talcoban, but the impact on the people is the same. People still lost their homes and do not have the basic necessities to survive."
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said that as of Monday, Ormoc had 34 deaths, with 15 having been identified by the Philippine Red Cross. Some 30,760 homes were destroyed and 9,291 others partially damaged.
The Philippine Red Cross said 11,500 relief packs have been distributed to survivors in various locations.
The Singapore Red Cross' medical team came with about $5,000 worth of supplies, bought in Cebu. The supplies include basic medicine for cough, cold, fever, infections and allergies, said team leader Serene Chia.
"Once the supplies run out, we would replenish them from Cebu. We bought the medicine from Cebu because we want the locals to have access to the same medicine even after we leave," she added.
Mr Sahari said the Singapore Red Cross would be sending four medical teams of 10 volunteers, with each team staying up to 10 days on each trip.
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