March 10, 2017
Japan: Helping Communities Rebuild Post-Fukushima
Every year the world produces millions of tonnes of electrical equipment waste – also known as “e waste”. In the Philippines, especially in poorer communities, the recycling of this e waste is a major source of income for some neighborhoods. But e-waste, such as TVs, refrigerators, CD/DVD players and cell phones can leave communities exposed to dangerous chemicals if not dismantled and recycled safely.
The Philippines currently lacks formal regulation for the dismantling of e-waste and much of it is done by hand near residences or inside homes. This exposes families and their children to chemicals such as lead, cadmium and mercury on a daily basis. Chronic exposure to these chemicals can lead to immune system dysfunction, affect children’s neurological development, disrupt thyroid hormone levels and many other health conditions.
Doctors of the World has pioneered a project to mobilize safe e-waste recycling practice in the Metro Manila area of the Philippines. We have supported the creation of community-based recycling organizations and piloted a highly successful risk reduction program to provide information on safe recycling practices for workers and their family members involved in e-waste recycling. We distribute protective equipment such as gloves, masks and Kevlar safety cuffs. In addition to working alongside these communities, we also train local healthcare professionals on the dangers of e-waste.
In addition to our work with electronic waste recyclers, we are also active in supporting communities respond to and rebuild after natural disasters such as typhoons. In 2013 we were involved in the emergency response to Typhoon Haiyan, which killed an estimated 6,300 people in the Philippines and affected over 11 million people. Soon after the typhoon hit we dispatched a team of doctors, nurses and logisticians to provide emergency care to survivors in affected areas such as Leyte.