Oxfam warns of disease outbreak as hygiene conditions worsen in the Philippines


International humanitarian organization Oxfam today warned that a disease outbreak is “waiting to happen” in the Philippines unless authorities quickly manage the shortage of water supply and address sanitation needs as unhygienic conditions in and around shelter areas are worsening since the flash floods hit the area over the weekend.

“There is an acute shortage of water supply, containers, and trucking capacity. Although the government, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations are working hard to provide water both for drinking and household use, it is still not enough. Sanitation facilities in evacuation centers are extremely limited such that people are resorting to defecating where ever they can. A serious disease outbreak is waiting to happen,” said Snehal Soneji, Country Director of Oxfam.

The worst-hit areas are those near the riverbanks. The survivors are now cramping in overcrowded evacuation centres which are facing serious sanitation problems.

Oxfam has already distributed water bottles to around 4,000 families in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan where the disaster hit on Friday. It is now stepping up assistance to help at least 5,000 more families and expand to other urgent issues.

“People need not only water, they also need immediate shelter and latrines. Without bathrooms, women are finding it hard to maintain personal hygiene. They also face the added burden of caring for sick children. Pregnant women face even more difficult times ahead,” Soneji said.

Eighty percent of Cagayan de Oro has no running water and will remain so for at least a month. Noel Pedrola, Oxfam Humanitarian Officer, said “This will exacerbate the poor sanitary conditions of evacuation shelters in the days to come, and has wide-ranging implications on public health.”

At least 1,010 deaths have been reported so far since the typhoon struck the area on Friday, injuring 1,603 people and affecting more than 500,000. More than 46 people are also missing. Some 262,280 people are displaced.

Oxfam dispatched experts to typhoon hit parts of the Philippines. The organization has a team of ten experts on the ground to assess the water and sanitation conditions in Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City in southern Philippines, after the flash floods struck the two cities.

Donations to Oxfam's emergency response work worldwide can be made to the Global Emergencies Fund.

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