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In November 2013, super-typhoon Haiyan made several landfalls in the Philippines archipelago. It was one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded, with gusting winds and giant waves that left enormous damage in its wake: more than 6000 people were killed, almost 28 000 were injured and over four million lost their homes. Most basic infrastructure ceased to function, including electricity and water supplies, transportation and communication. Ten million Filipinos were affected overall.
Our medical task force
Following a formal aid request from the Filipino government, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) mobilised a medical response team to the island of Cebu, some 10 000 kms away. Because of the immense destruction, there were many casualties and only a few injured patients alive at the scene, making trauma care less a priority than ambulatory medical services for acute and chronic diseases. Of the 148 IDF mission participants, 56 were medical personnel. Others included logistics, support and rescue personnel from the IDF Home Front Command. Among 24 physicians, there were four paediatricians (including an emergency medicine specialist) and three paediatric nurses. Portable facilities included an imaging unit (portable digital X-ray and ultrasound machines), clinical laboratory (chemistry and haematology analyses, bacterial cultures and virology studies) and a fully supplied pharmacy.
Integrated field hospital
In coordination with the Filipino authorities, we reached our destination of Bogo city, in the northern part of the island of Cebu. We were the first medical task force and the only paediatric multidisciplinary team operating in the area, where most primary clinics were destroyed or closed. Unlike other paediatric field hospitals in disaster areas,1 ,2 we decided to create an integrated paediatric emergency unit (PEU), together with the staff of Bogo district hospital. This 80-bed urban hospital, staffed by four physicians (including one paediatrician) and 15 nurses, had already admitted more than 100 patients by the time of our arrival, despite having …
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