The continuing increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases, with severe threats to health, safety, and severe economic disruption has led to several challenges now confronted by Filipinos across the nation.
In the Philippines, a total of 1.6 million cases have been confirmed, and more than 28,000 deaths have been recorded since August 4, according to the country’s Department of Health. In its latest report, the World Health Organization shared that the Philippines ranks second among the countries with the highest cases and deaths within Southeast Asia.
“ADRA is implementing a response program to COVID-19 from September 1, 2021, to May 1, 2022,” says Tom Pignon, ADRA’s country director in the Philippines. “ADRA will focus on Matanao, Davao del Sur, and the whole island of Mindanao, and we will continue its collaboration with the Seventh-day Adventist Church and build partnerships with new communities in four areas.”
Despite the economy reopening, millions remain unemployed, and the internally displaced people in Mindanao have challenging housing situations and difficulty accessing decent income opportunities, Pignon adds. “The majority of these laborers are essentially on a ‘no work, no pay’ scheme. Many farmers have found it difficult to market their products since most food establishments closed and the number of consumers significantly decreased.”
To support the livelihood activities of this highly vulnerable group, ADRA will focus on building the capacity of 300 community members on vegetable farming and goat raising. To ensure sustainability, ADRA will integrate a savings mechanism that has been working well in other ADRA projects to improve the financial literacy of the beneficiaries and help meet their household needs.
The pandemic also caused significant challenges and threats to the medical workers on the frontlines, and the lack of personal protective equipment has posed a critical challenge. Healthcare workers have the highest risk of exposure to the virus as they work in hospitals to diagnose and treat COVID-19, according to the local Department of Health.
As of March 31, a total of 15,907 health workers have been recorded to be infected, and of that total, 15,248 have recovered, 82 have died, and 577 are currently infected. Recently, ADRA provided surgical masks, face shields, and disinfectants to 17 health facilities across the Philippines.
The number of Filipinos seeking psychological first aid (PFA) has additionally increased during the pandemic. Local authorities shared that the number of people seeking consultation through their crisis hotline has tripled due to COVID-19. Most callers expressed experiencing sadness, nervousness, and anxiety. In ADRA’s recent assessment in Davao del Sur, the government frontline workers have identified their need for psychosocial support.
Recently, ADRA has provided psychological first-aid services to medical front-line workers and vulnerable communities through the Stronger Together and EMBRACE COVID-19 projects across the Philippines. To help promote the psychological well-being of the people of Mindanao, ADRA intends to build the capacity of local volunteers in conducting PFA and making necessary referrals to appropriate health authorities.
Although the Philippine government has required all Filipinos to wear face masks or other forms of facial protective gear when leaving their homes, there are still many community members and remote villages that violate these policies. There is false information that keeps the public unclear according to local findings on the basic aspects of COVID-19, such as modes of transmission, the range of symptoms (predominantly asymptomatic cases), the nature of testing, hospitalizations, and treatments.
Vaccine hesitancy remains high, according to the March 2021 survey from Pulse Asia. Results show that only 16 percent of the respondents would like to get the COVID-19 vaccine once available. Those who were unwilling to be vaccinated against COVID-19 expressed their concerns regarding safety, vaccine brand, and fear of the side effects.
“Clear and transparent communications on all aspects of COVID-19 would help build public trust in vaccine safety and efficacy. ADRA continues to promote awareness using radio programming and social media,” says Pignon. “In the future, ADRA plans to include the use of television to reach a wider community.”
For more information about ADRA’s COVID-19 response in the Philippines, visit HERE.