News and Updates

Philippine authorities struggling with relief effort

As authorities in this typhoon-ravaged nation struggled with a mass-scale relief effort, survivors said they were becoming increasingly desperate, short on food and supplies and terrified about waiting longer.

A few residents of hard-hit areas scrawled signs with a simple message: "Help us."

Nearly five days after the once-a-century winds of Typhoon Haiyan gashed the central Philippines, some aid workers say progress has been too slow. Many who want to help are waiting at airports and air bases, hoping to catch rides from the shorthanded Philippine military.

The typhoon cut a path through the middle of the country, directly affecting about 10 per cent of the population. The government's official death tally stood at 1744, but thousands of others are missing and the toll is expected to climb.

Though more than 30 countries have pledged aid so far, the distribution of goods has been held up by a daunting set of problems. Some roads are impassible. Many towns lost their own emergency workers.



Philippines: Terrible destruction complicating relief efforts after typhoon

Geneva / Manila (ICRC) – In a matter of hours on 8 November, Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest storms ever recorded – completely devastated parts of eastern Visayas in the central Philippines. The International Committee of the Red Cross is closely coordinating its relief efforts with the Philippine Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and a number of National Societies of other countries.

The ICRC has an office and staff on the ground in Tacloban city and will be focusing its emergency response in Samar province, where it has been operational for many years in the context of the armed conflict in the southern Philippines.

“This area has been totally ravaged,” said Sebastien Sujobert, head of the ICRC office in Tacloban. “Many lives were lost, a huge number of people are missing, and basic services such as drinking water and electricity have been cut off.” There was also, he said, extensive damage to other infrastructure, and communication was difficult for those working to aid the stricken population. Both the Philippine Red Cross and the ICRC offices in Tacloban had been damaged, forcing staff to relocate temporarily. “To make matters worse, the security situation is tense. People here need every type of aid.”

On 6 November, with the storm already bearing down on the area, ICRC Manila dispatched 11 trucks to Tacloban loaded with food and other essential relief supplies such as hygiene kits, kitchen utensils, jerrycans, tarpaulins, water bladders and water-treatment units, emergency latrines and medical supplies. However, the trucks were held up for a few days in Surigao city as all sea traffic came to a halt. These supplies have yet to reach Tacloban.

“There’s an urgent need to speed up the humanitarian response,” said Graziella Leite Picollo, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Manila. The organization was therefore sending additional staff by air from Manila and Davao to support personnel already on the scene. The priority, she said, was to survey the needs, and this would be done together with the Philippine Red Cross.

The trucks are expected in Tacloban tomorrow, Monday. That will enable the distribution of emergency relief to start. The ICRC is determined to reach the affected population as soon as possible.

For further information, please contact:
Soaade Messoudi, ICRC Manila, tel: +63 918 907 2125
Anastasia Isyuk, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 30 23  or  +41 79 251 93 02
David-Pierre Marquet, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 536 92 48 (French)



Bayan calls for mass mobilization for relief efforts for Typhoon Yolanda victims

News Release

November 11, 2013

Reference: Renato M. Reyes, Jr. Secretary General

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan calls on all its chapters and member organizations in the Philippines and abroad to undertake mass mobilization for relief efforts for the victims of  Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). We call on unions, employees’ associations, student organizations, community organizations and the general public to contribute to the efforts to help the communities ravaged by Yolanda. Through the Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan or BALSA, we are currently receiving cash and donations in kind intended for the victims of the typhoon.

The strongest storm to make landfall this year, and perhaps the most powerful in recorded history, may have claimed up to 10,000 lives according to some estimates. The storm cut a swath of destruction throughout the Visayas region in the Philippines, affecting as many as 4 million people across 36 provinces.

Many areas in the Eastern Visayas region remain without food, water, power and communications facilities. Entire communities have been levelled by the storm. Looting has been reported by the media. Worst hit were the coastal communities. The first area hit by the storm, Guiuan, Eastern Samar have initially reported as many as 300 dead. Relief workers are also trying to reach rural communities also believed to be devastated by the strong winds and the storm surge.

The situation of the people is made even more difficult by the backward socio-economic conditions in these provinces. The worst hit region, Eastern Visayas, ranks the third poorest region in the Philippines as of 2013. Of all the regions in the country, it alone posted negative growth in 2012 according to the National Statistical Coordinating Board. It registered the highest incidence of  families experiencing hunger according to  a 2011 government survey. Most vulnerable to the effects of the storm are the peasants and fisherfolk who live under conditions of poverty and underdevelopment. We fear for the situation of many villages near mountain areas which are also vulnerable due to the effects of large-scale mining and logging operations.

Another region hit, the Western Visayas, has a poverty incidence of 24.7% as of 2012 and an unemployment and underemployment rate of 27.8%. The region has reeled from slumping agriculture and fisheries. The impact of the storm will again take the greatest toll on the peasants and fisherfolk in the region.

Years of systemic fund misuse, as shown by the corruption in the pork barrel system, has further aggravated poverty in these regions. Those in power who are perpetuating the status quo are thus also liable for the dismal situation of the people in these regions.

At this point, government should prioritize relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of the typhoon. Funds should be channelled directly to relief and rehab, primarily food and water, health care and shelter in the immediate, as well as livelihood and rebuilding of communities in the medium term. Government funding, such as those used for debt servicing or items that are considered part of the corrupt pork barrel system, should instead be used for the needs of the typhoon victims. We definitely take exception to the use of public funds for the promotion of narrow political interests at a time of severe crisis. Lastly, government should heed the people’s demands for social justice such as genuine land reform and an end to destructive mining and logging operations in these regions. Unless true economic development is undertaken in these regions, the vast majority of the population will continue to be increasingly vulnerable to the effects of calamities both natural and man-made.

We call on the people to join the International Day of Solidarity for the Victims of Yolanda on November 13 by holding assemblies, discussions and mobilizing people to contribute to relief efforts.