Bugko, December 2020


Dear members, friends and supporters of Mabuhay!

My last newsletter reached you just as the situation in the Philippines came to a head on August 10th. With up to 6,000 new infections per day, the Philippines has been declared the epicenter of the corona pandemic in south-east Asia. At that time there were still few infected people in northern Samar. At the end of August the numbers rose in northern Samar as well, possibly due to returnees from Manila. The Philippine state sent the people who had become unemployed in Manila back to the provinces. Another point was that more tests were done. On August 24th, the first Corona case was registered in Mondragon, our city. This was followed by other cities in Northern Samar triggered by a politician's birthday party, where the Corona rules were not observed. Everything happened very quickly now. On August 29th, the Catarman Fiesta is celebrated, this is the highest church festival of the Catholic Church in North Samar. All celebrations were canceled at short notice, the Holy Mass was celebrated, but without a bishop and without the more than 50 priests who would otherwise have come. On September 1st, the quarantine regulations were again stricter. The villages, here called barangays, were "cordoned off". You were only allowed to leave your village in an emergency. Face masks became compulsory, alcohol was banned and travel outside the province was also banned. This situation remained through October. The start of school was postponed from June to October 6th and started in Bugko in the form of modules. Every week the children received exercise books that they had to work on and answer at home. The mothers then brought the modules to school for assessment and did so every week. This situation was particularly difficult for children with learning disabilities and for children whose parents cannot read or write because they cannot give the children any help. The children are still tied to the house and are only allowed to visit the doctor outside the home.

In the first week of October more children came to the consultation hour. In addition, there were significantly more patients with psychological problems triggered by the corona pandemic, ranging from simple sleep disorders to suicidal thoughts. Medical examinations in the local health centers was done in the way that patients were only examined through a pane of glass. An almost inhuman situation. Unfortunately, the situation changed again when the first positive case in Bugko became known on October 16. Schooling was stopped again and on October 22nd, Bugko went into lockdown, which means the village was completely cordoned off again and a permit was needed to leave the village. The number of cases rose sharply here and of 46 cases in Mondragon, Bugko had 22 !! So we had to close the clinic for 10 days as nobody was allowed to enter the village. We observed the situation and when the numbers stagnated we opened again immediately so that the patients had a contact point and did not have to be examined through a window slot. At the checkpoint they only had to indicate that they wanted to see us at the clinic, then they were let through. Fortunately, we were able to arrange this with the mayor, because he also had been tested positive.

On November 1st, the Philippines were hit by super typhoon Rolly (Goni) (you have surely got my special report) and that wasn't enough, typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) followed on November 8th and brought severe destruction and enormous floods in Bicol, Mindanao and even in Manila. Even the German media reported about it. Due to the large amount of water, it was difficult for the auxiliary troops to get the people to safety. Some sat on their roofs for days until help came. Two major typhoons in such a short time were a disaster. Due to the Corona aid over the year, the aid of the Philippine state started only slowly.

As in the past, we went to help. With our volunteers, we packed aid packages with rice, noodles, coffee, milk, canned food, water, other foods, soap, candles, face masks, detergents, clothing, etc. In addition, we packed building materials for 12 emergency shelters (roof panels, wooden panels) in a friend's truck (square timbers and various sizes of nails) and medicines. With your help and local support in the Philippines we were able to care for 263 families in three villages and were able to carry out 240 improvised medical examinations. It was a huge help to the people of Bicol. We had chosen Bicol because it was the closest region to us and yet the drive there took over 10 hours and to reach the people we had to take adventurous routes into the mountains. Often there was only a very narrow path and the power lines hung low or lay right on the ground. The whole region was still without electricity after 2 ½ weeks so bringing candles was a good idea. From our experiences after Typhoon Haiyan 2013 in Tacloban, we now have some experience in packing things that are really needed. It was interesting that in a remote village, where we went, the residents had not heard anything about Corona. So there is still something like that. They were given masks beforehand because we came. Thanks again to everyone who donated spontaneously. As always, the help came directly.

Our concern was that we would have to be quarantined on our return, but thank God we could get around that. So we were able to resume operations the next day. In mid-November, we decided that we would not to travel to Germany in December because the risk of infection is too high on both sides and in Germany, as in the Philippines, a quarantine of 14 days should be expected. In my last newsletter I mentioned that the dental station is closed due to the Corona regulations. This is also bad for our children in the fluorine prophylaxis program, which has been supported by the German Dentists' aid organization for years. We spontaneously decided to bring the toothbrushes and toothpaste as well as the fluorine salt to the children so that the program can at least be rudimentarily maintained. If you receive this letter, children under the age of 18 are still not allowed to leave the house unless there is an emergency such as illness. We hope that doctors and dentists will be able to come to us again in 2021, but the Philippine state has not yet issued visas for foreigners. The need is great. Unfortunately, the dentists in the city take advantage of the situation and charge their patients very overpriced prices. It is a pity that doctors and dentists do not show understanding for their patients during these difficult times.

An exciting year is ending.  Mainly dominated by the corona virus with fears and illness but also hope. Despite the pandemic, patients came to us every day. Fewer than the previous years, but almost 9,000 patients. With your help we were able to help so many and do good again. Thank you / SALAMAT for all the help and support! Be it financial support or a donation in kind. I would also like to say thank you on behalf of Sr. Veronica for the many encouraging words in this not easy year for everyone. We felt your connection to us very much. Knowing that you can't just go or drive anywhere feels oppressive. And the feeling of constant danger from an invisible enemy in the form of a virus is not always easy to endure, especially since there is still no vaccine for everyone. We were exposed to the danger every day, as we have patients from all over the province in the clinic. We are grateful for our volunteers who stood by our side every day. All your help arrives and is used where it is needed. And so I wish you a merry Advent season and a blessed Christmas, lots of strength and  that all of you stay healthy.

Your grateful Sabine Korth

Malipayon nga Pasko (Merry Christmas) from Bugko!








Bugko, April 2020


Dear members, dear friends and supporters of Mabuhay!

As in previous years, I was briefly in Germany in December to report in detail at the general meeting about the activities, innovations and plans in our project in Bugko. Again we were able to fill the beautifully decorated hall in the Elisabeth house with friends and members. It was nice to see and speak to many of you. Typhoon Tisoy, who hit the clinic on December 2, raised much concern.

When I returned on December 30, the effects of the typhoons were still visible everywhere. After Typhoon Tisoy, Typhoon Ursula followed on Christmas Eve. The cleanup and repair work continued until April, as it was raining heavily and the weather was extremely unstable. I would like to thank everyone who spontaneously supported us again, so that we could also help the people in our area who could not build their houses due to their own efforts. I will show the pictures of the construction work in the next newsletter. The considerable damage to the clinic was gratefully acknowledged by the organization of the German dentists with the help of Dr. Winter. Dr. Winter and the relief organization have been at our side for years, especially when a catastrophe strikes again. Unfortunately, the area is again and again v.a. affected by typhoons, but this time there was also a lot of damage in the clinic. Roofs had to be renewed, false ceilings had to be replaced, a new coat of paint and various damage to the buildings in the farm and medicinal plants had to be fixed.

The news in January were almost all about the eruption of the Taal volcano near Manila. There were many earthquakes in the region and an outbreak was feared at any time. An evacuation zone of 14 Kolometers was established and many people had to go to evacuation centers for weeks. Thankfully the situation calmed down and the outbreak did not take place and people were able to go back to their homes. The cleaning from the ash rain took a long time.
On January 11th Amy Seidel and Yvonne Plückebaum, two “freshly baked” dentists, came to us from the University of Hanover. The information spreaded quickly that the dental station in Mabuhay was occupied again and many patients came. Both dentists quickly and familiarized themselves with the treatment chairs. In addition to the treatments, they gave our volunteers tips on the prophylactic treatment of patients. Many teeth could be saved. To our delight, more and more patients are asking about tooth-preserving therapies and tooth cleaning. On February 9th Amy and Yvonne left to explore the Philippines.

Hanni Stieber, Hannah Wilhelm (both from the University of Würzburg) and Ida Brattinga (University of Cologne) came directly afterwards and took over the dental station.

On February 22nd Dr. Angel Wright from the ISM (International Surgical Missions) team came to us again to perform the outpatient operations and to screen the major interventions for the operations in Biri. (Biri is an upstream island, and anesthetic operations such as inguinal hernias, thyroid glands, fibroids or tumor operations are carried out in the district hospital there). She arrived 3 days late because flights from Clark to Catarman were canceled due to bad weather. Unfortunately, fewer patients came to surgery this year because the weather was just too changeable. Dr. Wright stayed with us for 3 days and on March 2nd Dr. Praveen and his wife examined cardiac patients. Unfortunately, they had to fly back to the United States the next day.

From February 26th to March 2nd Dr. Klaus De Cassan from the organization of German dentists (HDZ) came to us to train the volunteers in the fluorine prophylaxis program and to answer questions. There was a lively exchange. In the afternoon, some children came from the fluorine prophylaxis program and what they learned was put into practice. Dr. de Cassan was delighted to find such good results after so many years of prophylactic treatment. The prophylaxis measures over the years are now showing success for the good of the children.

On March 5th dentist Dr. Lindner and his wife Evelyn from Bad Kötzting came to us. Followed by the students of dentistry Parnia Aghel and Harlin Godhani (both from the University of Giessen) and Leah Graute and Sophie Wjinands (both from the University of Münster). Under the supervision of Dr. Lindner the students worked in the dental station. Unfortunately, fewer patients came than expected, because since March the Corona Virus completely controlled the world, including the Philippines. Nevertheless, the students were able to put much of what they learned at the university into practice. The patients were happy to see such a large team of dentists in Mabuhay and felt in safe hands. Unfortunately, they had to stop working early, but more about that later.

Since mid-March, the situation around the outbreak of the novel corona virus (2019-nCoV) and the associated global crisis sharpened and, above all, the fear of the population to become infected. After a short time, face masks and alcohol were no longer available even in Catarman. On March 15, Manila was more or less cordoned off. Air, land and sea traffic have been severely restricted to stop the virus from spreading. The population was asked to stay at home as much as possible and to wash their hands frequently. Even in our province, which was until 15 March free of Corona Virus, the passengers were checked and registered in order to find the virus carrier in the event of an outbreak and to monitor the fellow travelers. All returnees from Manila and other locations were also checked for symptoms daily for 14 days.

As of March 18, our village was quarantined and one person per household was given a pass, so that this person could do the household shopping. People aged 63 and over and children were no longer allowed on the street. Events were almost overtaking now. Schools, churches and shops were closed. On March 24th, Dr. Lindner, his wife and the students travel with the help of the local tourism department to Tacloban and from there to Manila. At that time there were no more domestic flights. On March 28, they had the opportunity to fly to Germany in a flight organized by the federal government. We were all very sad about the sudden departure, but on the one hand it was the last chance to leave until further notice, on the other hand only a few patients came because curfews were now imposed everywhere in the cities and the residents only in an emergency or closed unconditional errands were allowed to leave their town or village. Only 5 people are allowed in the supermarket at the same time. At all checkpoints, guarded by the police or the military, the people were registered, the temperature measured and the telephone numbers noted so that they could be contacted and isolated immediately in the event of contact with a positive person. The controls are much stricter than in Germany, but in this country of over 100 million people, the number of corona infected people can explode very quickly. At the time of my newsletter, there were just over 100 deaths in the Philippines and only one positive case in our province in Northern Samar, which survived the infection well. So far, the weak point has been the limited test options. The tests must be sent from North Samar to Cebu with the help of the coast guard. Another problem is the protective equipment, especially for the most vulnerable people (doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, etc.), such as face masks, face shields and safety clothing. Thankfully, we in the clinic are well equipped and have even been able to help others. The clinic is still open and a few patients come every day. As I said, it is difficult for patients to come here because of the many controls. Our volunteers stand by our side and work in different areas. The nutritional program, supported by the German Club in Manila, for 75 children at the moment, continues because it is more important than ever in this situation. I hope you can imagine how critical the situation is here at the moment.

Departure from our dental Team from Tacloban

Due to the situation, my parents unfortunately had to cancel their planned trip to here. A drop of melancholy! But the most important thing at the moment is that everyone stays healthy and this I wish to all of you.
The government has recently started distributing some foods to the population, such as canned rice and sardines. Sometimes soap, face mask and disinfectant. The question is how long this will last, as it is still unclear how long the quarantine measures will be maintained. Many people, just like in Germany, currently have no work and therefore no income to support their families.
There are exciting months behind us, as you can see from the length of the report, so I thank you for your varied help and your memory of us here. PLEASE KEEP HEALTHY!

Sabine Korth

Salamat (thanks) from Bugko!