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Basic services first before Ebola aid

12:05 AM February 24, 2015

Last Feb. 4, the Philippine government, represented by Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, signed the “Standard Administrative Arrangement” between the Republic of the Philippines and the United Nations Development Program for the management of the Philippines’ P90-million contribution to the Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund.

According to Del Rosario, “This is but one way for us to give back to the international community for the outpouring of support in the aftermath of [Supertyphoon ‘Yolanda’]” (international name: Haiyan).

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International solidarity goes beyond mere donation of funds. To truly respect and honor the resources sent to the Philippines, these funds must reach the intended survivors. The news reports of the current condition of the survivors imply otherwise. Thousands in Leyte alone are still jobless. Hunger and illnesses plague the thousands who still live in bunkhouses. They are among the 66 million Filipinos living off with P125 per day. Each soul is dependent on government prioritizing basic services to survive.

The government must show the world its honesty in prioritizing its people by refusing to make the same mistakes in managing the people’s budget. Pork barrel flourishes in the 2015 budget. Millions were spent by the Department of Social Welfare and Development to hide the homeless from Pope Francis’ view. The health budget remains far from the internationally recommended 5 percent of the gross domestic product.

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The Department of Health prides itself in the capabilities of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, a hospital that admittedly has a 50-bed capacity, with only seven of the beds having the required negative pressure isolation capacity; and one ICU unit. The San Lazaro Hospital and the Lung Center of the Philippines, two of the identified skilled hospitals, also expressed their appeal. It was shown to the public that the hospitals were short on equipment and facilities to handle Ebola cases. The DOH expects competence from its health workers, yet to date not all the public hospitals throughout the country have held trainings in controlling dreaded diseases. The situation has worsened with the recent detection of the presence of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the Philippines.

“Giving back” to the international community entails sincere government prioritization of the people. Projections of grandeur are illusions to a poverty-stricken nation. A country that is prepared in preventing another disaster contributes more to the international community.

—ELEANOR A. JARA, MD,

executive director,

Council for Health and Development

[email protected]

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