The Council for Health and Development (CHD), a national organization of community-based health programs (CBHPs) in the country, expresses concern over the worsening hunger and ill health among the populace in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.
Guihulngan is a fourth class municipality in the province of Negros Oriental. Mountainous, the city is 120 kilometers away from Dumaguete City. Approximately 90% of the rural population of Guihulngan City are tenant farmers, cultivating an average of one-half to one and a half hectares of land mainly planted with corn and bananas. Although agriculture is the main source of income of the people, unemployment level is high and more than 80% of the population live below the poverty line. Child labor is rampant.
People’s health is seriously ill. Diseases of poverty are prevalent such as pneumonia, diarrhea, tuberculosis, while among the top causes of death are severe malnutrition, anemia, upper gastro-intestinal bleeding and neurogenic shock. People hardly bring their sick to hospital because of the high cost of hospitalization even in public hospitals. They just bring their sick to local herbolario or the sick just die without seeing a doctor.
Since the latter part of 2007, the Central Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines declared Negros as a priority area in its counter-insurgency campaign. Troops deployed in the area are the 303rd Infantry Battalion (IB) and 302nd IB, accompanied by special elite forces 1st Scout Ranger Battalion and two Division Reconnaissance Companies, and complemented by the elements of the Philippine National Police.<
The escalating militarization only aggravated the people’s condition. A climate of fear and terror has been created disturbing the economic activities of the people. Their health is badly affected as there were complaints of disturbed sleeping patterns, gastric hyperacidity and hypertension secondary to stress and psycho-social disturbance.
Dr. Merry Mia, CHD’s Director of Health Education, Training and Services, said, “Even the delivery of health services to the beleaguered communities has been hampered.” She related the experience of the Mountain Health Clinic, which was maintained by the Order of the Franciscan Missionaries since the 1970s. “The clinic’s community health workers (CHWs) who provide the much-needed health services in far-flung areas are not spared from being targets of the so-called counter-insurgency operations of the military,” Mia continued. The Mountain Clinic is part of the health network of the Negros Island Integrated Health Program (NIHIP), a member program of CHD. The clinic has reportedly been raided by the military in a number of times. Most of the satellite clinics it runs have stopped operations. Soldiers also ordered a stop to health skills trainings.
Mia related, “CHWs in Bgy. Trinidad and Bgy. Linantuyan have been subjected to interrogation, surveillance and other forms of threats. Even the health training kits of some CHWs were confiscated by the military.” She continued, “At least two houses of CHWs were strafed by soldiers. Three CHWs were also slapped with a string of trumped-up charges; two of them have been languishing in jail since 2007. Many were maliciously tagged as members of the medical team of the New People’s Army (NPA) and have been included in the military’s order of battle.”
In these disaster situations, timely health interventions are needed. In solidarity with the people of Guihulngan, CHD will send off a Mercy Mission Team to Guihulngan City on September 12-15 to provide medical, dental and psycho-social intervention to the affected communities. CHD affirms that the people’s right to health, life and livelihood must be upheld, protected and defended. ##