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Friday, November 15, 2013

The scene at Villamor Airbase #yolandaPH

I went to Villamor this morning for a meeting on setting up mother-baby friendly spaces with several breastfeeding groups.  However, we realized that action was immediately needed and ended up talking to and assisting evacuees with babies.

C130 just landed
I also had the chance to see a C-130 land in Villamor and streams of people from varying ages and conditions streamed into the waiting area.  The system at the Villamor Airbase is organized by the Army wives, let by Mrs. Kintanar, Mrs. Ona and Mrs. Rayos.

New arrivals are ushered into the waiting area. People with injuries are immediatel y and people stream into the waiting area - moms babies, families, old people, people with injuries, the latter being directed immediately to the clinic area for medical assistance.

This waiting area is filled with monobloc chairs where they are given food, water, allowed to rest. Volunteer stress de-briefers interview them - 1 per family - name/ages of family members, what area did they come from (Tacloban, Tanuan, Guian, etc).  Then, the volunteers check what their immediate needs are: may sugat, may sakit, may karamdaman, or if with kids, nappies?

breastfeeding mom gets
interviewed by meda
If they have wounds or feel unwell, they are immediately brought to the clinic area where register and then get interviewed by a nurse. then a doctor checks them and prescribes medicines if needed. Then they go to a pharmacy area where medicines are dispensed.   If they need clothes, there is also an area where they can get some clothes - clothes are not randomly given to them but they get to pick what fits them.

Next, if they have relatives, globe/sun/smart have set up calling booths. They call their relatives to get picked up. Some are ferried to bus stations by transport volunteers. Those who have nowhere to go are sent to another waiting area and will be transported to the DSWD shelter in Mandaluyong.

view from the back
So what is needed there? Volunteers to be transport coordinators. If you can volunteer to be one, contact Golda Benjamin 09178117007. Hot food - they are asking if per food donation can be good for 150 people. Sana healthy nutritious food arroz caldo or monggo and not fast food. Clothes for the infants and the children.

Several breastfeeding groups have banded together and will be working with DOH/IYCF Coordinators to set up mother-baby friendly places where moms can get affirmation and breastfeeding counseling. I want to correct the misconception na --pano na mga formula fed babies? mamatay? It is DOH's duty to dispense formula milk to babies who truly need them.   Donations of formula milk are prohibited when made to the general public, when included with the individual relief good packs.  However, if it is found that there are moms in the evacuation centers or crisis area who need it, they can get it from the DOH coordinator.

waiting for transport to
the DSWD shelter
Earlier, we saw several babies and most were breastfeeding. I only saw 2 who were formula feeding and they were already older children - past 1.  The goal for these kids is to help them get past reliance on milk and eat more solids. The babies at the evacuation centers all came with their mothers.

What we want aim to do is to encourage them to breastfeed and not drown them in donations of BM substitutes. Breastmilk given to the kids if needed is pasteurized. Donated BM is not the end. it is a stop-gap. the end is put the babies back to breastfeeding.

There are no numbers of how many babies are currently without mothers - even the Philippine government does not have this figure.  The number we have is that on the ground - in this case in Villamor Air Base.  Babies need medical assistance - medicines which are dispenses accordingly but not formula milk.

If this morning's visit was going to be a barometer, I would say that there were only 2 kids - old kids who could've been recipients of the breastmilk donation.  All the other babies there were breastfeeding.  If you are worried about the health of the milk donor, milk is pasteurized.  In all transport of milk,  we ensure that the cold chain is preserved - milk will not be spoiled.  Spoiled milk will never be fed to the babies.  Again the end goal is put the babies back to breastfeeding.  If you give formula milk, you can never ensure that the powdered milk is clean, that the water used to mix it is clean - that the bottle you use is BPA-free.  Finally, you cannot promise a continuous supply of formula milk for 6 months.

The negative effects of distributing formula milk or breastmilk substitutes have been proven internationally and locally and is evidence-based.  Hindi ito sabi-sabi or gawa-gawa lang.  These are international standards and I am ashamed to say that by allowing formula milk donations on site - given and distributed generally, paatras tayo as a country.

To end, if you want to help this Villamor Air Base activity, here are concrete things you can do:
1. Sign up for a shift at the mother-baby friendly space -
2. Volunteer transportation by contacting the coordinator Golda Benjamin 09178117007
3. Donate hot food - good for 150 people at least.  Pool your resources with your friends.  I'm actually looking for manangs/manongs who cook and sell hot food on the street.  Perhaps we can buy their entire day's sales and ask them to distribute their food in Villamor.  To donate food, please contact COMBI Officer Ms. Rose Villarin 09159299292 or contact Pasay City Health Office 8318201
4. Donate usable clothes for the infants and the children.


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