Health advisory ways to cope with an oil spill

I see this banner hanging next to the health clinic every time I go to the market in Estancia. So during one of my market trips I stopped to photograph the banner so I could spend more than a few moments considering how ludicrous this seemingly helpful banner actually is (refer to table below).

Filipino Department of Health advice on how to cope with an oil spill.
Filipino Department of Health advice on how to cope with an oil spill.

You may not be aware that the people who need this information the most are the ones who

  1. can’t speak, let alone read english AND
  2. have no understanding of their entitlements under their own health system AND
  3. had their homes and livelihoods inundated and destroyed by 900,000 litres of bunker fuel and oil.

They are also literally terrified to go to the doctor: now why do you think that is?

Well intended health warning Reality check
Stay away from the area when you see oil on the beach Bit difficult if your home (ie makeshift shelter made of debris and rubble) is the oil spill area. It is even more difficult when the company contracted to clean up the oil spill rakes up sand to cover up the oil and claim the job has been completed. Dodgy hey?
Stay indoors in an air-conditioned area and avoid strenuous outdoor activity. Mmm most of the makeshift shelters had fertiliser bags and fabric for walls and didn’t seem to have power, making air conditioning somewhat difficult. Do you think that cleaning up what is left of your belongings and building some sort of shelter is not strenuous?
Avoid contact with sediment, sand and soil or indoor/outdoor surfaces that area contaminated with oil. What if your fishing boat, nets, equipment and belongings were submerged in the salt water and oil? You might need to swim or wade in water to retrieve the equipment you need to earn money just to eat. Kind of negates this one doesn’t it?
Do not swim in areas affected by the oil See above!
Do not use oil spill water for human or animal consumption. Desperate people do desperate things!
Do not eat fish from oil spill affected waters. When you have absolutely no money and no food you might be tempted to catch and then try to sell contaminated fish.
Do not eat fish, shellfish or other seafood from the area with oily residues or fish that has petroleum odour. When you have absolutely no money and no food you might be tempted to eat contaminated fish or shellfish.
Wash skin which has come in contact with oil contaminated water with soap and water. Seems simple enough, except at the height of the oil spill and for months after, the Barangay of Botongon had no fresh water at all. ALL supplies had to be shippped in (not for free). PS: no money for food so quite possibly no money for soap.
Consult with a doctor if things do not improve. Most Filipino people (especially the very poor) that I have encountered in Estancia are afraid to visit the doctor. Now why do you think they are afraid?

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