By Mar S. Arguelles
LEGAZPI CITY --- At least 66 refugees from the war-torn Islamic City of Marawi have died due to various illnesses of which 19 evacuees died inside designated evacuation camps while the rest (40) died outside the camps, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said here Thursday last week.
Ubial in an interview said the 40 evacuees staying outside evacuation centers died of dehydration while the 16 death cases reported at the evacuation centers were people who were already suffering from illnesses when they were brought to various evacuation camps.
She said “some evacuees were suffering from kidney disease and have been undergoing dialysis while others even died of cancer and heart diseases when treated at a government hospital where they were rushed.”
She emphasized that the victims have died not because of the crisis where they were hit by bullets and bombs; they died because of sickness they have been suffering.
Ubial led the Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol on Thursday for the 7th ASEAN Dengue Day Celebration.
When asked about the health situation in various evacuation centers in Mindanao, Ubial said the DOH have set up 68 evacuation centers accommodating some 20,627 people or 4,249 families coming from Marawi City.
She said the centers were established in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental, particularly in Cagayan De Oro City, and in Lanao del Sur where the majority of the refugees are being housed.
The common illnesses reported include, among others: Acute Gastroenteritis, upper respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, and skin diseases, DOH records indicate.
Ubial said these diseases are widespread due to “crowding” and cramp evacuation camps.
Ubial quoting DOH evacuation data said that of the 280,581 people that fled Marawi because of the crisis, only 20,627 persons are housed in various evacuation camps while remaining evacuees are living with either their relatives or friends.
The thousands of evacuees staying outside evacuation camps are our major health concern, and how fast can our physicians and health workers, for instance can respond to the health needs of these evacuees, she said
Ubial said “Doctors and health workers are doing their daily rounds checking those evacuees needing medical attention; but what about those evacuees living outside the evacuation centers? she asked to raise her point.
To help resolve this issue, Ubial said she has directed the DOH in Mindanao to launch a campaign advising Marawi evacuees who fell ill to immediately visit barangay, town, city health centers and hospitals for free medicines and medical treatment and confinement.
She said currently there were 1,290 patients that were referred to various hospitals, of which 178 were admitted, and 467 were treated as Out Patient while the rest were given medical attention and were sent home.