The Philippines is one of the largest supply countries for seafarers, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered recruitment and brought training to a halt. Seafarers have had to deal with not only the impacts of the crew change crisis, but also the fear that they will test positive for COVID-19 either before joining a vessel or while onboard. Many of those who have tested positive for the virus have found themselves facing both health problems and financial hardship as they are unable to work.
Many Filipino seafarers have asked ISWAN for help with protecting their health so they can continue to provide for their families. One seafarer was left without any source of income since the start of the pandemic and she tested positive for COVID-19 multiple times, which derailed any chance of re-employment:
‘I have tested positive for COVID-19 4 times and my ship assignment was cancelled 3 times. I am my family's breadwinner and my parents are unemployed, I have been jobless for 9 months. I hope you can help me’
For those who have experienced the death of a loved one, they face not only grief but also financial hardship due to the loss of their family’s breadwinner. The wife of a senior, long-serving seafarer contacted ISWAN after four members of her family were hospitalised with mild to severe cases of COVID-19, including two of her children. All members of the family recovered except her husband, who tragically passed away. He had just returned home from a voyage when he contracted COVID-19 and was due to return to sea again. His wife said:
‘… everything was so sudden. I couldn't accept it because my husband was still normally healthy and energetic before he passed away. A fellow citizen told me about ISWAN, I hope you can help me as I still have a child studying in his 3rd year in college’
On 6th December 2021, ISWAN launched a grants programme in the Philippines funded by The Seafarers’ Charity’s Seafarers International Relief Fund (SIRF). The programme would assist 100 Filipino seafarers with grants to alleviate their costs of hospitalisation, medicines and supplements, and other financial troubles brought about by the virus.
So far, more than £30,000 has been granted to 50 seafarers or their families who were directly affected by COVID-19.
One grant recipient was the wife of the senior seafarer who died from COVID-19. She said:
‘ISWAN PHILIPPINES I cannot thank you enough that we are one of the families you chose to help. It was a big help for my children and me … our heartfelt thanks to the ISWAN FAMILY/PHILIPPINES’
Other grant recipients shared their messages of thanks with ISWAN:
‘I just want to send my warmest thanks and appreciation to ISWAN for helping me in this most trying times … indeed a big help for me who was challenged by pandemic and was also recently a survivor of Typhoon Odette Ph (Rai)’
‘When my family experienced the most difficult times, ISWAN was there for us … They helped us especially with the financial assistance. I thank personally ISWAN for the assistance not only with the application but also for the support to us emotionally, for the words of encouragement and for treating us as a family’
For more information about the ISWAN’s Seafarers International Relief Fund grants programme in the Philippines and how to apply, please visit www.seafarerswelfare.org/relief-funds/sirf-philippines.
Seafarers or their families in need of guidance or support can contact ISWAN’s free, confidential, multilingual helpline SeafarerHelp at any time – contact details can be found at www.seafarerhelp.org.