The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has assisted over 450 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) identified as locally stranded individuals (LSI) and who have been staying under a bridge at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.
PRC psychosocial services head Dr. Paez-Beltejar said apart from regularly providing them with hot meals and comfort items, the humanitarian organization also extend psychosocial services to the group.
“Psychosocial support is unseen, but it is a basic need, just like WiFi. We cannot see it, but we need it,” she said.
Addressing the emotional distress that have beset the LSI, PRC chairman and Senator Richard Gordon deployed the organization’s psychosocial services team and evaluated them.
“Red Cross Pasay Chapter near NAIA reported to us that some displaced OFW under the bridge in Terminal 3 have been staying there for several days without support. Immediately we conducted an assessment of 450 to 500 individuals there,” Dr. Beltejar said.
“Most were outbound OFW who were not able to fly abroad due to the lockdown. They can’t travel overseas anymore. Most of them are natives of Mindanao. Many can’t afford to buy a ticket home,” she added.
The PRC coordinates with Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), particularly with its administrator, Hans Leo Cacdac, to communicate who among the LSI especially need the welfare services.
“We want to extend our services because the OFW are vulnerable. They are working outside the country, away from their families. They needed to live on their own and in a place totally strange to them. This causes stress,” she said.
In partnership with the local government of Pasay, the LSI have been accommodated at Villamor Air Base Elementary School.
“Every day we provide hot meals. There are agencies who also give meals, so we take turns. PRC Pasay Chapter provides meals, we have allocated a certain budget for that,” she said.
Moreover, the PRC supplies cellphone credits or load to the LSI so they can communicate with their families.
“We gave them load… unlimited calls for two days. It’s not just giving load, it facilitates communication. We link them. When they already hear their family’s voices, they immediately cry,” the doctor recalled.
She added the PRC also conducts “pre-departure orientation” online or in a chapter to instruct OFW what to expect once they start working abroad.
“It’s not a bed of roses. We discuss the possible effects of separation between them and their children,” she said.
If an OFW needs to be repatriated, the PRC also comes into the picture.
“We have referral services. We can refer them to the consular services, OWWA or DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs),” Paez-Beltejar said.
Aside from this, the PRC helps people locate missing family members through its program, Restoring Family Links.
“We bridge the gap through our network. We start by tracing then we reunite them,” she said.
Senator and PRC chairman and CEO Richard J. Gordon said its laboratories are not only capable of processing COVID-19 specimen but other infectious diseases as well.
“All the Red Cross molecular laboratories that are now up and running, and those that are soon to open are capable of testing other communicable viruses aside from COVID. We can also test tuberculosis, human immunodeficiency viruses or HIV, dengue, malaria, hepatitis, leptospirosis and Zika, among other diseases,” he said.
Gordon pointed out the capability to test more virus strains impact on the treatment of patients.
“This is very important because we have the capability of testing more illnesses. It means we can diagnose more patients and they get treated immediately,” he said.
“The primary purpose why we put up molecular laboratories is because we want to help the country respond to COVID-19 by providing facilities where our people can be tested. But soon, we will also start testing for other diseases. What is important now is we test more individuals for COVID because this is one vital way of containing and eliminating the virus,” Gordon added.