The world is facing a global crisis unlike any since World War II, one that is spreading human suffering, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives. This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive and innovative action from all parts of society.
While recognizing the urgency to address the global scale and complexity of the crisis, this document outlines the manner in which the humanitarian community in the Philippines is coming together in a coordinated and inclusive way to support the government-led response efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as socioeconomic needs emerging in its aftermath.
The present version of the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) COVID-19 Response Plan is focused on providing health interventions and multi-sectoral assistance to the poorest and most marginalized communities directly impacted by the epidemic, particularly focusing on the safety and wellbeing of women and girls. While the activities in the plan focus on the most immediate challenges, the overall strategy spans until the end of the year and the document will be periodically updated to keep up with the unique and evolving nature of this crisis, mindful of the importance of early recovery and interventions appropriate to the context of a middle income economy characterised by high levels of inequality, marginalized communities and displacement driven by natural hazards and conflict.
The Philippines has also been included in the revised Global Humanitarian Response Plan, reflecting broader COVID-19 needs in already vulnerable humanitarian contexts.
(See the final page for a description of the Humanitarian Country Team in the Philippines, its leadership and member organizations and networks)
Situation Overview and Needs Analysis
On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for novel coronavirus, after the Chinese authorities confirmed that they identified a novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan City.
In January, the first three cases were recorded in the Philippines, all with confirmed travel history to Wuhan City. On 5 March, a first case of COVID-19 with no travel history abroad was confirmed, indicating the presence of local transmission.
As of 10 May, 10,794 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the Philippines and 696 deaths. According to WHO, among the confirmed cases, 5,929 are male (53%) and 5,089 are female (47%). The most affected age group is 30-39 (20%).
Public health impact
While everyone is at risk to be infected by COVID-19, elder people and persons with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart and respiratory diseases or with compromised immune systems, including people with HIV, as well as frontline health workers, are the most vulnerable. People at risk of infection are also those living in poor, densely populated urban settings and any community with inadequate access to proper hygiene supplies and with constrained hygiene and sanitation practices and nutrition services.
As a lower middle-income country, the Philippines exemplifies the challenges of a health system in transition. The COVID-19 pandemic puts additional strain on already overwhelmed health system in a country with ongoing measles, dengue and polio outbreaks and against the background of the triple burden of malnutrition. For example, stringent social distancing measures and community quarantine have had significant impact on polio outbreak response activities, postponing vaccination campaigns and disrupting nutrition services.
A shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, intensive care and other critical equipment is affecting the ability of health facilities to treat COVID-19 patients. Almost 20% of all those infected in the country are health workers. Initially, some hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR) stopped accepting patients because they were unable to provide adequate protection for their health workers without PPE. Health facilities in Mindanao are particularly affected by the lack of PPE and many health workers are currently self-quarantining after they came in close contact with COVID-19 cases without wearing adequate PPE.