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Sponsored by APRIL International UK
17 December, 2013
Up until early November of 2013, The Philippines were largely regarded as one of the more successful Asian economies, with amongst other things a thriving business outsource industry and GDP growth rates running at around 6% per annum, far outstripping many Western economies. With over 400,000 people now employed in call centres, the Philippines overtook India in 2011 to become the world's largest provider of these services, which are operated on behalf of some of the top US and UK brand names - currently, there are thought to be over 1000 call centres spread across 20 locations.
All of that changed when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, leaving over 5000 dead and up to 500,000 more displaced and homeless, according to Oxfam. A massive aid programme is now underway, with many tens of millions of pounds pledged from the UK alone and spearheading the distribution of aid will be charities such as the Red Cross, Oxfam and many other US and International bodies, as well as less well known organisations such as the Lions Clubs International Foundation and US organisation such as Relief International.
At the same time, many of the 20 or so charities and NGOs which have a permanent presence in the Philippines including the Salvation Army and the Children's Shelter of Cebu will be continuing their normal day to day work. But with much of the country's infrastructure now severely damaged, particularly in the outlying islands outside of Metro Manila, the question arises, who will support the support workers should they fall ill as result of the now severely depleted sanitation and fresh water supplies? With climate-sensitive diseases such as TB, dengue fever, malaria, diarrhoea and other mosquito borne viruses common, the risk of infection is set to rise dramatically, as overstretched medical facilities look to tend to those injured by the storm.
Industry statistics suggest on average around 50% of expatriates do not hold international private health insurance, meaning many, including NGO workers, are potentially at risk particularly in the event of natural disasters. Whilst in theory the government provides healthcare free at the point of use to all 94 million of the population, including expatriates, via PhilHealth, on the ground healthcare facilities vary considerably from good quality in Metro Manila to very poor in remote areas. Health care spending remains low at only US$7 a person a year, with government subsidies being cut.
International private medical insurers such as APRIL International UK have a vital role to play in such circumstances, offering as they do an effective back up for both long term expatriate workers based in the Philippines and front line NGO and aid workers who may be sent out to help with reconstruction and care programmes.
Debbie Purser, managing director of APRIL International UK comments, "In places such as Tacloban City where the destruction has been widely reported, it is reasonable to assume local healthcare facilities will be severely stretched. In such circumstances, international healthcare insures such as ourselves would fly policyholders needing urgent medical treatment out to nearby centres in countries such as Singapore and Thailand, should treatment elsewhere in the Philippines not be possible. International private medical healthcare providers like ourselves are therefore there to care for the carers. We have access to resources via our Assistance Providers without needing to call upon what are sure to be overstretched local resources."
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