Friday, September 8, 2006

DOH Asked to Dispatch Medical Teams to Relocation Site

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DOH Asked to Dispatch Medical Teams to Relocation Site

8 September 2006, Quezon City. Church, environmental and social justice groups asked Health Secretary Francisco Duque to immediately deploy medical and environmental sanitation teams to the Southville Housing Project in Cabuyao, Laguna to prevent an emerging health crisis.

Led by the Ecowaste Coalition, National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), and the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), the 17 groups sought Sec. Duque’s intervention in view of the reported occurrence of skin diseases, diarrhea and other ailments among relocated railway dwellers purportedly due to the poor environmental health conditions in the area.

In a letter delivered today at the DOH headquarters in Sta. Cruz, Manila, the groups asked the Health Department to attend to the health needs of Maria Luisa Yabut and other children in the relocation site who are afflicted with serious skin diseases. Yabut, a three-month infant, has been diagnosed by Dr. Lilia Acebron, pediatrician at St. James Hospital in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, as suffering from scabies and multiple infection.

“The heartrending documentaries shown on GMA7’s “24 Oras” (30 August and 1 September 2006) and “Emergency” (1 September 2006) only corroborated what we thought was an emerging health crisis in the relocation site,” the groups said.

“Even teachers are falling ill due to the unbearable heat, particularly at the provisional classrooms in a huge tent,” observed the Ecowaste Coalition, citing a report obtained from Ms. Elvira Catangay, principal of the Southville 1 Elementary School, which shows that between 10 July 2006 to 25 August 2006, 15 out of the 18 teachers have taken sick leave due to acute bronchitis, acute respiratory upper tract infection, flu and other ailments.

In line with the Department’s mandate of ensuring accessible and quality health care services to all Filipinos, especially the poor, the groups urged the DOH and other concerned government departments to speedily and effectively respond to the health needs of the relocatees.

Specifically, they asked the DOH to send medical and environmental sanitation teams to the Southville Housing Project on a regular basis or until the municipal government of Cabuyao has fully assumed the responsibility.

As a member agency of the National Solid Waste Management Commission, the groups urged the DOH to take the lead in ensuring the safety of the relocatees from chemical pollution. Towards improved community health, they asked Sec. Duque to work for the implementation of an ecological system for managing household discards within the entire relocation site, and to work for the closure, cleanup and rehabilitation of the private dumpsite situated next to some of the residential blocs.

As a precautionary step, they asked Sec. Duque to seek the transfer to a safer location of relocated families living next to a dump. The 200-meter radius of the dumpsite is a no-construction zone under the R.A. 9003.

They also appealed to Sec. Duque to seriously look into the water, drainage, electricity and indoor pollution issues, which, if adequately resolved, would tremendously improve the environmental health conditions in the relocation site. -30-

For further information, please contact the Urban Poor Associates (4264118) or the Ecowaste Coalition (9290376).

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