A flying visit to the Payatas

Just before the end of my visit here on the Philippines, I have the chance to visit the slum Payatas in Quezon City together with my husband Robert Henker who has been working as a Doctor for six weeks in Cagayan de Oro and on Rolling Clinics – we get the chance to look at the slum, the dumpsite and also the health care center, which Doctors for Developing Countries – German Doctors runs here.

Dr. Huber holds consultation hours on the Payatas

The Project Doctor Erwin Huber currently works here. The German Doctor has been here for three and a half weeks and has a bit of a cold at the moment. But with more than 100 patients attending his consultation hours daily, he can’t afford to cure the cold in bed, he says laughing and with a broken voice.

„Most of the patients here suffer from respiratory illnesses“, says the German Doctor. „Many people come here every day – among them a lot of children – who get injured working with or on the rubbish, who get for example cuts on feet and legs.“ That’s not at all astonishing – the biggest part of the patients lives and works directly next to or on the dumpsite.

The Payatas: The slum is just beside a dumpsite. The health care center which the German Doctors run here is situated within the slum next to the biggest dumpsite of Manila. Payatas is a city with more than 200,000 inhabitants but the name often stands for the dumpsite located here. 530 lorries bring a total of 1,200 tonnes of waste from Manila, Quezon City and surroundings. 53% of people who live in Payatas work directly on the dumpsite – as a security guard, driver, vehicle guide, assistant („balero“), sorter, assistant in the waste collection centers. This is the official number we get during our visit on the dumpsite. Inofficially, there are a lot more people – including children – who work illegally on the dumpsite or who sort the waste outside or who run junk shops – waste collection centers of traders who resell the sorted waste to factories. Many people lost their lives during a slide on the dumpsite in July 2000. Consequently, the government officially prohibited child labour on the dumpsite; security guards watch the official gates. However, „jumper boys“ usually jump onto the lorries and enter the dumpsite that way or they pass through a hole in the fence in order to continue working there. 75 people each work on the six official waste sorting centers on the dumpsite.

Many parents bring the collected garbage home where the whole family, including small children, has to help sorting. It is necessary in order for a family to survive here and to earn 200 to 350 Pesos per day (3.30 to 5.90 Euro) depending on quantity, type and quality of the waste. The „garbagers“ or „scavengers“ sell the sorted garbage to the junk shops. Weight and type of waste influence the price: Garbagers receive only 8 Pesos for one kilogram of plastic but one kilogram of copper wire earns more than 200 Pesos. However, there is only relatively little copper wire in the waste which they have access to and it takes more effort to collect it.

Visiting the dumpsite and the slum, we keep seeing children who sort waste in the backyards. It smells of waste and smoke, drains are blocked with rubbish, the roads are made of mud and garbage. In the middle of it all – children working, playing, watching.

„A lot of children are underweight here“, says German Doctor Erwin Huber.

„I already had three of them in the consultation hour today.“ It is not astonishing considering everything we experienced throughout our tour. In the tuberculosis center, the DOTS Center, 58 patients are treated, among them 8 children. Unfortunately, the ward round of the short-term Doctor and the tuberculosis therapy can only be carried out ambulantly ­ there is no infirmary here.

It is great that the men, women and children who master their lives under these inhumane conditions have a place to go in severe cases.


Children sorting rubbish

More than 100 patients wait for the consultation hours daily

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