Two days after Category 5 Typhoon Haiyan left central Philippines almost completely flattened, heartbreaking scenes are unfolding. Yet amidst the devastation, there was a story of hope.
In the ruins of Tacloban City, young mother Emily Sagalis, 21, gave birth to a baby girl.
According to her husband, Sagalis began having labour pains around in the early morning of Monday, 10 November. The couple walked several kilometres looking for help and hoping to find a health facility that was still functioning. A truck picked them up and drove the labouring mother to the Tacloban airport, where amidst the rubble, an area was converted into a makeshift clinic. A military doctor assisted in the delivery.
Although Sagalis safely delivered her baby, the doctor said both mother and baby were at high risk of infections. The clinic couldn’t help any further. They had run out of antibiotics.
There are around 200,000 pregnant women like Sagalis who have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan. The breakdown of health services puts them in a precarious position. In Tacloban City, village health centres were totally destroyed and the one hospital that is still functioning is overcrowded. There are too few health personnel as many health workers were impacted by the typhoon.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is mobilizing resources to respond to the devastation caused by the typhoon. It is putting in place reproductive health interventions to ensure that pregnant women and mothers who have just given birth will have access to prenatal and post natal care. UNFPA is currently procuring equipment to address urgent reproductive health care needs, including maternal health, for two million people. Because approximately 40% of women in the Philippines deliver at home, clean delivery kits are being provided to partners and midwives.
Staff are being deployed to assess needs on the ground and medical equipment, including clean delivery kits, are being sent to affected areas which can currently be reached. In eight of the most affected provinces, UNFPA will support five rural health clinics or health centres providing primary health care including basic emergency obstetric care, in each province. Family planning services, especially for current users and new users who want to avoid getting pregnant under the current circumstances, will also be available.
The Government estimates that 9.5 million people have been affected, with almost 620,000 displaced from their homes. UNFPA will provide them with dignity kits, which contain essential hygiene supplies that allow them to attend to their personal hygiene and sanitation needs while living in temporary shelters.
Amidst the tragedy brought by Haiyan, Sagalis believes miracles can still happen. She considers her newborn as her miracle and she will name the baby after her mother who died in the tragedy.