Lockdown takes emotional toll on overseas workers

Mental and emotional problems, such as anxiety and depression, are beginning to affect Filipino workers in quarantine both here and abroad owing to coronavirus lockdowns―with some opting for a grim end.

Lockdown takes emotional toll on overseas workers
IN DROVES. Overseas Filipino workers fill the check-in counters at the  Paranaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) to board inter-island buses to take them home to their respective provinces after spending more than a month in quarantine in Metro Manila. Norman Cruz
In Beirut, a Filipina domestic worker committed suicide in Lebanon at a shelter run by her embassy, consular officials said Sunday (Monday in Manila), days after a rights group complained about accommodation at the shelter.

The embassy, in a statement posted on its Facebook page, said the unnamed "household service worker" arrived on Friday at the shelter and the next day "reportedly jumped from a room she was sharing" with two others.

She died of her injuries on Sunday, it said, adding that "details of the incident are currently being investigated."

An estimated 250,000 domestic workers—mostly from Ethiopia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka—live in Lebanon, many in conditions condemned by rights groups.

READ: Local Roundup: Save OFWs

Those conditions have worsened in recent months as Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades, as well as a coronavirus lockdown.

This comes a month after Algen Cadungog, a native of Cotabato City who worked in Kuwait, hanged herself while under quarantine in Pasay City.

Cadungog was found lifeless while hanging underneath the stairway of a room in a lodge in Pasay that was converted into a quarantine facility for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), police investigators said on April 26.

Witnesses said Cadungog was part of a group repatriated from Kuwait who arrived in the Philippines on April 4, then were transported to the quarantine lodge.

She took her live over growing financial problems, her fellow OFWs said in several news reports.

Similar problems have forced OFWs to flee quarantine facilities despite stern government warnings not to leave their lodgings, with threats of criminal cases for violating the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act for ignoring health protocols if they do.

Even Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. urged on his Twitter account to arrest OFWs who escaped quarantine, a move the group Migrante International criticized.

READ: Quarantine for arriving 42k OFWs worries government

“Without the financial aid, psychosocial support, medical and transportation services that OFWs deserve to get, the Duterte regime’s temporary quarantine shelter are nothing but detention facilities,” Migrante International chairperson Joanna Concepcion said in a statement on May 21.

“It is such a shame that OFWs traumatized by their experiences abroad and in local quarantine facilities are now being treated like criminals by their own government,” she added.

Under the protocol set by the Inter-Agency Task Force, repatriated OFWs have to wait for the results of their coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) tests before they can return home, but most have exceeded the recommended 14-day quarantine.

The Department of the Health (DOH) and other agencies have admitted delays in the issuance of the tests results caused by encoding issues and slow pace of testing.

In a GMA News report, about 160 OFWs quarantined in Pasay like Cadungog expressed growing fears their isolation was causing them to fall into a deep depression. 

READ: 300k jobless OFWs returning

“I am often tulala (staring into the distance), that's true because that's what I feel now,” an OFW named “Shirley” told GMA News reporter Raffy Tima.

In an ABS-CBN news report, Cavite native Francis Mendi said: "Of course, I'm upset... your emotions are unexplainable. You're just trapped in the four corners of this room. This is the longest journey home for us."

Mendi said his group of 450 seafarers who arrived on April 26 took rapid tests on May 2 and swab tests on May 8.

“But still no results. We're tired of waiting. What's happening, why aren't our test results out?" he said.

Gilda Jimenez, a stateroom attendant of a cruise ship, also told ABS-CBN their isolation wasn't good for them anymore, as they had already spent a month in quarantine on their ship at sea.

“It's not healthy, because you need sun, you need fresh air, but you are stuck in your hotel room. You can't even step out into the corridor,” said Jimenez, who calls Rizal province home.

"We're so stressed and depressed here. They think it's good to stay in a hotel. But I'd prefer to be with my family instead of here,” she told ABS-CBN.

The death of the Filipina domestic worker in Beirut comes after a visit to the embassy shelter by a delegation from Lebanon's National Human Rights Commission.

READ: OFW remittances may decline by 6.9% — ING

On Monday the commission, in a letter sent to the embassy and posted on Facebook, criticized conditions at the shelter. "The occupancy exceeds the official capacity," it said.

"Respect the minimum requirements for daily outdoor exercise" and "make available appropriate psychological support to all women and staff," the rights group added.

It also called on Lebanese authorities to "ensure that migrant domestic workers are protected from exploitative working conditions during the lockdown."

A video posted by the embassy on its Facebook page Monday said the shelter was currently home to 26 people who receive "all meals and necessities" free of charge. With AFP

Topics: emotional problems , anxiety , Algen Cadungog , overseas Filipino workers
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