Philippines: Two weeks after Typhoon Haiyan

22 November, 2013
20 Nov, Philippines: UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos in Roxas assessing the damage with local officials. Credit: OCHA
20 Nov, Philippines: UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos in Roxas assessing the damage with local officials. Credit: OCHA

Returning from her visit to areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos said the scale and impact of the massive disaster continues to require a massive response. Two weeks on, over 13 million people remain affected, including 4.3 million people who have lost their homes.

“The severe winds and storm surge wiped out entire towns,” said Ms. Amos who travelled to Tacloban, Guiuan and Roxas and met many families who were still struggling to cope. “I have seen and heard harrowing tales of desperate need and profound loss. I also heard reports of immense bravery and heart-warming compassion.”

The typhoon swept through central Philippines on 8 November damaging over a million homes. Latest official estimates indicate that over 5,200 people have been killed but the Government is still verifying the numbers. Many farmers and fishermen have lost hectares of crops and boats, and are now dependent on humanitarian aid to feed their families.

“Early recovery work to assist agriculture and fishing, to restore livelihoods and get local economies moving again is critical,” said Ms. Amos, adding that the top priority for humanitarian organizations now is making sure that people have access to emergency assistance including food, clean water and shelter.

Since the typhoon, UN agencies and humanitarian partners have been working with the Government, the Philippines Red Cross and local authorities to quickly mount large-scale relief efforts in affected areas. Some 2.5 million people have received food assistance and thousands of tarpaulins have been distributed to families who need shelter. Clean water is now available to everyone in Tacloban.

Local and foreign medical teams are working together to provide treatment, and a polio and measles vaccination campaign for half a million children under five is set to start on Monday 25 November. Local people have been hired to clear the debris in their towns.

“However, much more needs to be done,” said Ms. Amos. “Vast numbers of vulnerable people are still exposed to bad weather and need basic shelter. And they are worried that the typhoon season has not ended.”

Moreover, humanitarian organizations have warned that an estimated 1.5 million children are at risk of acute malnutrition, and close to 800,000 pregnant and nursing mothers need nutritional help. Many women and children are also at greater risk of neglect, abuse and exploitation during such emergencies.

“Systems need to be put in place to help prevent sexual and gender-based violence in crowded communal shelters,” added Ms. Amos. She called on the international community to continue showing solidarity with the people of the Philippines at a time of great need.

The Government and humanitarian organizations have updated the appeal for the Philippines following further assessments in affected areas. They now need $348 million to implement additional relief efforts. The majority of the funding goes to programmes focusing on food security and agriculture, emergency shelter, health care, water and sanitation. 

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