Migrante International is deeply saddened by the passing of the 58-year old Filipino household worker in Dubai on 2 February. According to UAE Health officials, the OFW, a single mother, succumbed to Pneumonia and was tested negative of Novel coronavirus (NCoV) on 1 February.
We cannot help but be dismayed at the poor coordination being exhibited by government agencies in response to the 2019-nCov outbreak. We are strongly asking Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello to accept responsibility for his pronouncements and reveal how and from whom did he get his initial information on the cause of death of the 58-year old OFW.
As advocates of OFW welfare and health security, we are expecting to hear more from the Duterte government about its emergency response and crisis management particularly to the Filipino migrant sector. It is likewise imperative that the Duterte government take into account all distressed OFWs who are neglected in hospitals and for government agencies to urgently respond to their needs.
After DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello’s announcement on 6 February, wherein he confirmed that the death was due to 2019-NCoV, a UAE senior official denied the report as “baseless.” The lack of coordination between Philippine authorities and its labour attaches in host countries is abhorrent as this could lead to more confusion and misinformation at a time when the public is keeping close attention to the outbreak.
Migrante calls on the Philippine government to extend assistance to the family of the deceased and ensure that further investigation is conducted to find out possible factors behind the reported medical condition and whether the Pneumonia contraction was work-related or not.
OFWs especially household workers are vulnerable to many health issues and are more likely to be enfeebled with serious medical conditions due to stress, overwork, sleep deprivation, starvation and maltreatment. Their anxieties over the economic difficulties faced by their families back home due to rising prices and inadequate social services compel them to endure pain and continue working overseas even through debilitating physical and mental ailments.
In a country where the poor have no access to quality health services, accountability points to the Duterte regime’s negligence. The absence of a national pharmaceutical industry that could have been providing the public with cheap and highly effective medicines is compounded by the brain drain among health professionals who flock overseas due to low salaries and poor benefits from working in the Philippines. Such is the poor state of the Philippine health care system from which Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and President Duterte turns a blind eye on.