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Fears Pneumonia on the Increase, as Thousands of Children Remain in Cramped Evacuation Centres in Philippines

TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 12/02/13 -- Editors Note: There are two photos associated with this release.

Dr. Miguel Dorotan, leader one of two medical teams who were the first to reach Dulag, 30km south of Tacloban in the Philippines, confirmed today the increasing concern of respiratory diseases or pneumonia among children in evacuation centres.

As part of a joint initiative between Save the Children and Merlin, health staff saw 292 patients on the island of Leyte within the first two days of opening. Dr. Dorotan assessed 127 sick children under five years old. The majority of children presented with acute respiratory tract infections, with 42 of them requiring medical treatment for pneumonia. Save the Children Canada's CEO, Patricia Erb, visited these medical sites during her visit to the affected areas.

"Given the number of homes which were destroyed, families are now living in very overcrowded conditions, in schools or temporary evacuation centres, as well as staying with other families whose homes might also have been severely damaged," Erb stated. "This, combined with the ongoing rain and stagnant waters, make managing health conditions and reducing the spread of disease a significant challenge."

The number of houses damaged during typhoon Haiyan is estimated at 1,173,413 with almost half completely destroyed. With the number of displaced people currently estimated at over 3.54 million (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), concerns continue to grow for those living in damaged, overcrowded, or hastily built shelters, who are highly vulnerable to infection, as the rainy season continues.

Two mobile health clinics were set up on Leyte this week and were able to reach the more remote barangays (villages) of Dulag - Calubian and Cabacunguan, covering a catchment area of 12 to 16,000. A third clinic was opened in San Jose, the biggest barangay in Dulag district, where a further 181 patients were assessed. In the past eight days Save the Children and Merlin doctors have assessed more than 730 patients on the island of Leyte. Mobile health clinics have also been rolled our across the island of Panay reaching a further 417 patients. They form part of a wider move by Save the Children and Merlin to control the spread of communicable diseases. As well as supporting local clinics, health teams will offer mobile healthcare to residents in some of the hardest-hit areas of Panay and Leyte islands where previous facilities have either been destroyed or overwhelmed with increased demand. These will address some of the most urgent healthcare needs and ensure people, especially children, are treated quickly and effectively.

Dr. Dorotan also raised concerns over the treatment of patients with tuberculosis, an illness that proved challenging to manage in the Philippines, even before the typhoon struck. The country was ranked ninth in the list of 22 countries identified as having the highest burden of tuberculosis in the world, with 212119 new cases recorded in 2012 (World Health Organisation).

"While we have only seen a few cases, we know that the prevalence of tuberculosis in the Philippines is already very high. Tuberculosis treatment needs to be continuous to be successful and interruptions increase resistance to primary treatment, which is a significant concern," said Dr Dorotan.

As part of its emergency response to ensure families and children have sufficient shelter against the prolonged rains, and to restore at least the minimum level of dignity to their living conditions, Save the Children is distributing shelter kits, household items such as bedding and kitchen sets, and household-level water treatment supplies. Its teams have so far reached over 30,000 people in Tacloban, and over 8,000 on Panay Island and harder-to-reach islands.

Save the Children's Sarah Ireland, who was deployed to Tacloban as Field Manager just after the typhoon struck, warns that the significant health risks posed to children must remain a priority. "While we now need to be looking past the immediate response phase and to helping people recover and rebuild, we must not forget that needs for immediate relief are still extremely high. Hundreds of thousands of children remain without adequate shelter or accommodation, and remain exposed to infectious and life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia and upper respiratory tract infections."

Save the Children Canada is responding to Typhoon Haiyan as part of the Humanitarian Coalition.

Notes to editors:


--  Save the Children teams have so far distributed essential items to over
    40,000 people.
--  Emergency shelter needs remain significant, with displaced people
    needing an estimated 4 million corrugated iron sheets and other shelter
    material to reconstruct their homes.
--  Continued rains are affecting debris clearing roads. Many families are
    living in damaged buildings or hastily built shacks, resulting in an
    increase of acute respiratory conditions and infections
--  Merlin and Save the Children have launched a joint response to the
    emergency in the Philippines. Thanks to this collaboration we are
    establishing several mobile clinics that will support affected
    communities both in Leyte and Panay.

To view the photos associated with this release, please visit the following links:

http://www.marketwire.com/library/20131202-SavetheChildren451.jpg

http://www.marketwire.com/library/20131202-SavetheChildren469.jpg

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