Typhoon Haiyan: Singapore medical team provides timely help

Leonard Cataaz is only eight, but he wanted to help his mother rebuild his house which was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan on Nov 8.

A day after the super typhoon hit, the young boy had tried to chop off a tree branch that fell on his house, when he accidentally dropped the knife onto his toe.

The knife cut deep into his toe. The open wound which was not treated caused his toe to swell and the infection was spreading quickly.

Leonard had to endure the pain as there was no one in his village who could treat his wound.

Yesterday, Leonard was finally relieved of the pain when the Singapore Red Cross medical team visited the village of Salvacion, where he lives.

The medical team of three doctors, three nurses and an art therapist, was there to help provide healthcare to the villagers, many of whom had lost their homes when the typhoon swept through their village a fortnight ago.

Dr Anton Cheng, senior consultant of the department of surgery at Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital, was worried when he saw Leonard’s wound and immediately asked nurses Noreen Taha, 28, and Abdul Farouk, 47, to treat it.

Dr Cheng, 65, said: “The infection has been there for at least 10 days and it could spread further up to his leg. The boy could possibly lose his leg and even his life if the wound is not treated.”

Dr Cheng, who had been on a past medical mission to Bandar Aceh in 2005 following the Asian tsunami, said he expects to see more cases of “neglected wounds” in the aftermath of the typhoon.

Dr Vivien Lim, 40, who practises general medicine, saw mostly villagers who suffered from cold, cough and respiratory problems.

Leonard was one of close to 200 villagers the Singapore medical team saw yesterday.

Besides the villagers who were delighted to see the team, Dr Norlita P. Arcanno, 36, too, was grateful for their support.

She told The Straits Times: “I am the only doctor serving 17 villages in the district. There are about 27,000 people in this district.”

Dr Arcanno who too lost her home to Typhoon Haiyan, said she has not been able to take a day off and has seen more than 1,000 patients after the typhoon hit.

The line would start forming outside her clinic at 7am every day.

Sometimes, villagers wait up to five hours to see her. Her clinic also faces a shortage of medicine after the typhoon hit.

Yesterday, Madam Dahlia Borla, 34, was delighted when her daughter was given medication to treat her diarrhoea.

She told The Straits Times: “We don’t have enough medicine here. My daughter has been suffering for over a week. My house has been destroyed by the typhoon and my whole family has been sleeping in the rain because we have no roof over our heads.”

On the first day of the running of their mobile clinic, the Singapore Red Cross team used up about $1,500 worth of medical supplies.

The team had brought with them $5,000 worth of medical supplies from Cebu.

Said Mr Sahari Ani, 50, director of services of Singapore Red Cross: “We expected a huge turnout at the mobile clinic, but the turnout was more than what we have expected. However, we will continue to provide the necessary medicine for the people here.”

joycel@sph.com.sg