Philippines floods: Oxfam warns of disease outbreak as hygiene conditions worsen at shelters

East Africa article written on the 22 Dec 2011

International aid agency Oxfam today warned that a disease outbreak is “waiting to happen” unless authorities quickly manage the shortage of water supply and address sanitation needs.

Unhygienic conditions in and around shelter areas are worsening since the flash floods hit the area over the weekend.

Oxfam’s country director Snehal Soneji said: “There is an acute shortage of water supply, containers, and trucking capacity.

“Although the government, the private sector, and non-governmental organisations are working hard to provide water both for drinking and household use, it is still not enough.

“Sanitation facilities in evacuation centres are extremely limited and people are resorting to defecating where ever they can. A serious disease outbreak is waiting to happen.”

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

Oxfam has already distributed water bottles to around 4000 families in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan where the disaster hit on Friday. The agency is now stepping up assistance to help at least 5000 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. Oxfam Humanitarian Officer Noel Pedrola 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 1010 deaths have been reported so far since the typhoon struck the area on Friday, injuring 1603 people and affecting more than 500,000. More than 46 people are also missing. Some 262,280 people are displaced.

Oxfam 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 the southern Philippines.

For interviews or more information please contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on +61 400 732 795 or