Typhoon: MSF sends SA team

MSF has assembled a team of South African specialists to assist in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines.

A typhoon victim walks past land ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, on the eastern island of Leyte on November 13, 2013 after Super Typhoon Haiyan swept over the Philippines. Photo: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The South African team of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has recruited a pool of 18 qualified surgeons, anaesthetists, engineers and psychologists to join relief teams already in the Philippines.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been left displaced and some estimates put the death toll at 10,000 after Typhoon Haiyan, described as the most powerful storm in the country's history, hit the region late last week.

MSF's emergency teams reached the Philippines on Saturday and at present 23 international staff members are onsite and will be joined by around 100 more specialists.

An employee of French humanitarian-aid NGO Doctors without Borders (MSF) prepares an emergency shipment as part of the reconstruction aid for Philippines aiming at helping victims of super typhoon Haiyan on November 12, 2013 at the NGO's logistic centre in Merignac, southwestern France. Picture: AFP.

South African individuals have made cash donations of up to R20,000 to assist in the relief effort.

Teams are continuing to explore the affected areas by helicopter and speedboat to make sure aid reaches those who need it most.

MSF spokesperson Kate Ribet says, "We are expanding our areas of intervention to the north of Cebu, and to Tacloban, Tanauan, the surrounding islands to the east and west, the area between Cebu and Tacloban, North Samar and possibly Bantayan, and other areas according to emerging needs."

"The situation continues to be a logistical nightmare, with transport links severely disrupted. Our cargo planes have been unable to land in Cebu, and have been diverted via Manila."

Ribet further reports that medical structures have been damaged or destroyed, with medical equipment and supplies washed away. Another challenge is a massive lack of information on the situation in rural and remote areas.

"Types of injuries we expect to see are fractures and lacerations. It is important that people receive treatment as soon as possible to avoid complications and infections. Outbreaks of diseases are also an issue, such as tetanus and diarrhoea-related diseases.

The corpse of a typhoon victim in a street in Tacloban, on the eastern island of Leyte. Picture: AFP.

Ribet says the management of the many dead bodies is an issue, and while their presence may not necessarily lead to disease, it is extremely traumatic for survivors.

Nine planes in total will arrive in Tacloban in the coming days carrying tetanus vaccinations, hygiene kits, cooking kits, tents, plastic sheeting, water and sanitation equipment and an inflatable hospital.

The organisation has called on South Africans to get involved by donating or working with the group as a relief aid worker.