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Dengue outbreak in Southville, a man-made disaster
9 November 2006, Quezon City. “The dengue outbreak could have been prevented if the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Housing Authority (NHA) had responded to letters from Church, environmental and social justice groups who urged them to dispatch medical and environmental sanitation teams to the relocation site in Cabuyao, Laguna,” said the Urban Poor Associates (UPA).
Last September 8, to prevent an emerging health crisis, at least 17 non-government organizations requested DOH Secretary Francisco T. Duque to seriously look into the water, drainage, electricity and indoor pollution issues in Southville, which, if adequately resolved, would tremendously improve the environmental health conditions of the residents.
“We are writing with urgency to appeal to the Department of Health (DOH) to immediately deploy medical and environmental sanitation teams to the Southville Housing Project in Cabuyao, Laguna in light of the reported occurrence of skin diseases, diarrhea and other ailments among some of the relocated railway dwellers purportedly due to the poor environmental health conditions in the area,” the letter read.
“Consistent with the Department’s mandate of ensuring accessible and quality health care services to all Filipinos, especially the poor, we urge the DOH, in coordination with the Municipal Government of Cabuyao and other concerned agencies, to speedily and effectively respond to the health needs of the relocatees. Specifically, we ask the DOH to send medical and environmental sanitation teams to the Southville Housing Project on a regular basis or until the local authorities have fully taken on this responsibility,” the letter added.
Also on September 8 for the occasion of the blessed Virgin Mary’s birth anniversary San Pablo Bishop Leo M. Drona issued a Pastoral Statement entitled “From danger zone to death zone” regarding the Southville Housing Project. “They came from the danger zone for we fully know what is life in a ‘home along da riles’ but their life in the relocation site in Southville, Cabuyao is may become a ‘death zone’ if not properly and adequately attended to,” Bishop Drona said.
Bishop Drona urged the national and local governments specifically the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Chair and Vice President Noli de Castro to address immediately the basic needs of the relocatees such as potable water, electricity, provisions for proper disposal of waste and health centers. “The Social Action Office which I commissioned to look after the condition of relocates alleged that six children had already died. Living near dumps is kin to thrashing their hope for a humane and secured future,” the pastoral letter read.
To date, at least five children have already succumbed to dengue, according to the Urban Poor Southville Association Incorporated (UPSAI). The five children who died are the following: Jean Claire Mortera, 12 years old; Jethro Sotto Santos, 3 years old; Alexandra Politico, 1 ½ year old; Kayla Buiza, 3 years old; and Alexandra Kristel Buiza, 5 years old. Some 18 children were confirmed infected but survived the disease, but on November 8 another two children were confirmed positive with dengue.
As early as September, after one child died of dengue, UPSAI tried several times to bring the issue of increasing number of dengue cases to the attention of National Housing Authority (NHA). They pointed that there were manholes filled with stagnant water in Southville that were teeming with mosquito larvae and could be breeding dengue-carrying mosquitoes. UPSAI leaders like Ester Terencio repeated several times this concern to NHA officers, the latest on November 4 and 6 in a meeting with Architect Virginia Domingo in Cabuyao, who brushed off their concerns by saying there is no dengue in Cabuyao. On November 7, the DOH declared a dengue outbreak in the Southville relocation site. -30-