Typhoon recovery draws Calgary paramedic to Philippines

As the Philippines continues to recover from Typhoon Haiyan's devastating impact, a Calgary paramedic is settling in after arriving to help out as part of an international paramedic group.

More than 4M displaced after storm slammed southeast Asian country

GlobalMedic volunteers distribute thousands of household water purification units to victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Each unit can supply a family of seven with clean drinking water for one year. (GlobalMedic)

As the Philippines continues to recover from Typhoon Haiyan's devastating impact, a Calgary paramedic is settling in after arriving to help out as part of an international aid group.

More than 6,000 people died and 4 million were displaced after the storm slammed the southeast Asian country in November.

Geoff McEwen is a paramedic and a volunteer with GlobalMedic. He is in Tacloban and says the scene is one of incredible destruction.

"It's just mass, mass devastation," he said. "There's not really a part of this island or the island beside it that haven't been touched by the typhoon."

Calgary paramedic Geoff McEwen is in the Philippines to help with typhoon recovery efforts. (Geoff McEwen)

Tacloban is the capital of hard-hit Leyte province where nearly 2,000 people were killed in November.

Most of the bodies have been buried in mass graves and many of them are unidentified.

For McEwen, and GlobalMedic, the focus over the coming days and weeks will be providing clean drinking water to the thousands still struggling to fulfill basic needs.

"[We're] distributing upwards of 60,000 litres of clean drinking water to the communities that have been affected by the typhoon here," McEwen said. "They've also set up a couple field hospitals, staffed with doctors, nurses and paramedics who are associated with GlobalMedics."

People of Philippines 'still so hopeful'

During his work so far, McEwen says one of the things that has most struck him is the spirit of the Filipino people.

Despite the years of rebuilding and reconstruction facing nearly all parts of the country, its residents have not let the turmoil damage their morale.

"They've gone through so much but they're still so hopeful," he said. "They've really come together as a community, as a whole, to try and recover from what's happened here."

The international spotlight is beginning to drift away from the disaster recovery effort, but McEwen says he wants more people to understand how dire the situation in the Philippines still is.

"It's normal for the international media to pull away from these things after a few weeks or a month or so, but when you're down here and you're on the ground after two months and you see that there's so much work to be done still — it definitely needs the attention still."

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