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Emergency Midwifery in the Wake of Typhoon Haiyan- part 2

In response to Typhoon Haiyan OHO has created grants to fly CNN Hero of the Year, Ibu Robin Lim, and several other experienced midwives in to ground zero to assist the 25 000 women due to give birth this month. Here is the second part of her first project report. Read the first part here

The devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan

The devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan

The next morning we were taken by Maita to Seven Angels Family Healthcare and Maternity clinic run by Midwife Joy, who is an angel.

On November 8th, the people of her Barangay, San Joaquin, Palo, Leyte, expected a big typhoon. What they could not predict were the sea-water surges, that struck like repeated tsunamis. The gale force winds of 300 km per hour had never been experienced in any storm before, with gusts up to 350 km per hour. (Much higher measurements were taken by the Japanese Typhoon tracking system than what was reported in the news).

Just after a mother gave birth that faithful morning at Seven Angels, the neighbours came running to warn them that the sea was coming, rising with terrible force.  Midwife Joy’s husband lifted the new mother, her baby, the neighbours, the midwives, their small daughter, and a bucket of rice through a hole in the ceiling. There in the rafters they hung on for life between the corrugated tin roof and the rising deluge.

Immediately after the disaster Midwife Joy went into the road and began to clean and dress the wounds of the survivors. Thirty or more of the pregnant women Joy was looking after with prenatal care, were dead, more are missing. Yet, day after day, Joy kept working, in the blistering sun and the driving rain, soothing the wounds, both body and soul, of her community.

The houses and buildings all around the birth center were churned to rubble by the surge and the winds. What was left of the Seven Angels Birth center was without a roof, there were missing walls and holes the size of automobiles. Yet, Joy and her young scholar midwives shoveled the mud from the floors, a broken pipe outside provided running water. After days of scrubbing, the instruments salvaged were sterilized with a kerosene stove, the floor in the birth rooms was washed and shined. Women were again giving birth there.

Reylynn a 34 year old second time mom was in strong labor, she shyly shared, “My three year old daughter was washed away.” For strength, she accepted back rubs and high protein relief biscuits from WFP.

Headed back to the Tacloban Airport, we happened upon a gathering by a mass grave, where more prayers were being offered, as more bodies were buried there.

Barangay, San Joaquin, Palo, Leyte, lost 1/3 of their over 3,000 citizens. It was hard not to see people carrying the dead. The reported number of casualties represents only those who have death certificates. Our friend Chito lost his daughter-in-love, and six grandchildren. His son buried four of their bodies without registration; in a place he cleared beside their destroyed home. The remains of the rest of his family have not yet been found. Clearly the dead cannot report themselves, so the reported numbers of casualties are much lower than the reality.

We were transported by military helicopter back to Cebu, in a convoy of four choppers. The birds-eye-view of the destruction, left us too heart broken to cry. Having touched the people, seen the suffering on the ground, then multiply that by the vast numbers in such a large area, it just too much.

For perspective the Indonesian Government Tsunami Damage Assessment (http://www.iom.or.id) reports damaged to 173,000 hectares (one-third completely destroyed).

Initial estimates of the areas hardest hit by Typhoon Yolanda (aka Haiyan) are 1,900,000 hectares, determined by satellite photos. Having flown over both the Tsunami Area and the pathway of Typhoon Yolanda, to my inexperienced but watchful eyes, the current Philippine disaster covered a larger area.  We cannot compare hundreds of thousands of Tsunami deaths, to tens of thousands of Typhoon deaths. However, in the Philippines right now the fortunate souls who survived this terrifying super-storm, are now homeless, thirsty, hungry and desperate for help rebuilding their lives. Even before the dead are fully buried, the foreign AID may be drying up, due to political agendas, I as a mother, a grandmother and a midwife, cannot understand.

The sight that twisted my heart into terrible knots: we flew low to land briefly in a field near Ormoc to unload some food relief. People were running, tripping, getting up and running harder, towards the helicopters. Elders, dragging small children, people of all ages, a pregnant woman, dressed in rags… crying, cheering. They were waving and holding their hands up to us as if in prayer, and signalling to their mouths, asking for food.

People in the distance had run to the helicopters, crying for food. I could not bear to take their photos, when we hovered above them, their faces all too clear and full of sorrow.