Highly vulnerable groups continue to face extremely tough conditions

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Typhoon Bopha (Pablo), the latest tropical storm to hit the Philippines, ravaged the south of the country on 4 and 5 December, killing over 1,100 people and injuring 3,000; more than 800 people were also reported missing . Immediately after the typhoon struck, Handicap International began distributing hygiene kits and temporary shelters and has supplied specific aid to 320 families, 141 of which include at least one person with a disability.

More than two months after the typhoon hit the south of the Philippines, many vulnerable families are still living in extremely difficult conditions ; many are yet to receive humanitarian aid, while others are suffering from chronic diseases. After organising an initial distribution of hygiene kits and temporary shelters to extremely vulnerable families, Handicap International has decided to expand its operations by launching a new project to meet the specific needs of 2,500 highly vulnerable people in Compostella Valley, in the south of the archipelago, where Handicap International’s teams will ensure access to medical care.

Actively supporting people with disabilities

Christine, 14, has cerebral palsy. Case-managed by specialists from Handicap International, she has been given a wheelchair to help her move around. “I’m really happy my niece has been given a wheelchair. I won’t get backache anymore because I won’t need to carry her around,” explains Elizabeth, Christine’s aunt.

There is currently a shortage of people qualified to care for disabled people in the Philippines, a situation made worse by the scale of the recent disaster. The ability of local people to earn a livelihood has been hit hard by the destruction of food crops and the isolation of certain villages, which makes it difficult for humanitarian aid to get through. For Handicap International, case-managing Catherine and ensuring she was fitted with an orthopaedic device by specialists was therefore of the utmost importance.

Mobile medical teams to treat the most isolated communities

“Under the current circumstances, if the most vulnerable people do not receive special attention, they are going to find themselves in a very dangerous position. So we need to provide them with support and ensure they can meet their basic needs - eating, washing and accommodation - and access care and psychological support when necessary,” says Catherine Vasseur, who manages Handicap International’s operations in the Philippines. In addition to providing 2,500 highly vulnerable people with responsive treatment, we plan to perform 450 psychological support consultations, and run awareness sessions for 150 members of humanitarian organisations on the need to take people with disabilities into consideration during natural disasters. Medical care will be provided by three of Handicap International’s mobile teams, who will visit the most isolated and poorest communities in the Compostella Valley.

The organisation will also train local staff to cope with emergency situations, implement natural disaster risk reduction measures, and meet the specific needs of people with disabilities. Handicap International began operating in the Philippines in 1985, when it set up 15 orthopaedic workshops, located across the country.