The tragic Typhoon Haiyan that ripped through the Philippines a week ago today left behind a trail of destruction, death and sorrow that continues to unfold. Words cannot express the utter despair that remains in the aftermath of the storm. The images of destruction, desperation and fear remind us how powerless we are and how fragile life can be especially in the face of Mother Nature. Thousands of people have lost their lives in just a blink of an eye and the exact number of casualties is yet to fully be known.
As we know, images are powerful reminders of our hopes and of our fears. A picture can paint a thousand words.
Thanks to my work as an advocate and voice for Save the Children, I was able to get access to exclusive photos from Typhoon Haiyan as well as speak with Francine Uenuma, Director of Media and Communications at Save the Children yesterday to learn more about Save the Children’s on the ground emergency response in the Philippines. Here’s the story.
Typhoon Haiyan has been called the perfect storm in terms of its size, strength and ferocity. As the storm moved into this vast island nation consisting of an archipelago of 7,107 islands, it hit land at record wind levels of up to 160 miles per hour bringing in a 16 foot storm surge like a giant powerful wall of destruction decimating entire towns such as Tacloban and leaving nothing behind except suffering and pain. To date, an estimated 2,300 victims have died and over 600,000 Filipinos have been affected, many becoming homeless or displaced.
What has made emergency and relief services so incredibly challenging is the unique formation of the Philippines as a group of islands. As you can see in the map below, the storm’s path cut across an enormous area of land, some of which is quite remote and hard to get access to in order to determine the damage.
Life in the places hit hardest by this catastrophic storm has become a daily challenge of survival. Not only are people coping with the destruction, damage and loss of their loved ones and their livelihoods, they also are faced with severe shortages of food, water and medicine that has lead in some cases to desperation. In Tacloban, one of the hardest hit cities of the storm, angry, frightened people have turned to looting and violence. There has even been reports of locals digging up water pipes in search of water that is unsafe to drink.
Electrical lines are down and debris lines the streets as well as dead bodies. It looks like a war zone in some of the hardest hits places such as Tacloban, Roxas and Llilio-Iloilo. Some of the more remote areas have yet to be accessed for damage.
In crisis’ such as Typhoon Haiyan, it is all a matter of acting as quickly as possible to provide humanitarian relief to the thousands of people in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medicine. There is so much we can do to assist and the urgency of providing aid is a matter of life or death.
Distributing aid is an enormous project given the structural make-up of the Philippines and the extent of the damage. With so much destruction, debris and power outages, getting aid into the most needed places has been challenging.
Right after Typhoon Haiyan hit, Save the Children sent over 30 international responders to help assist on the ground with their local staff. Since the Philippines is prone to natural disasters and on average has 20 natural disasters a year, Save the Children has operated an office there since 1981 which today includes over 100 employees who are well versed in emergency response services.
Just yesterday, the first shipment of aid arrived in Cebu from Save the Children on a 747 containing mostly household items and emergency relief. The first shipment contained an amazing 40 metric tonnes of aid:
- 2,000 sheets of tarpaulin and 7,380 pieces of plastic sheeting (to make shelter)
- 12,000 blankets
- 4 mobile clinics with all the necessary medical equipment
- 13,600 Jerry Cans
- 2,500 Kitchen Sets
- 500 Newborn Kits
- 100 ‘Winterised Tents’
- 5,000 buckets
In response to Typhoon Haiyan, Save the Children has launched a US $ 30 million appeal to assist 500,000 beneficiaries. The immediate needs – for water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH), food, medicines, shelter, psychosocial support, flashlights, debris clearance, logistics and communications – are currently being addressed and Save the Children has already raised $3.4 million in aid to help 20,000 people. But much more money needs to be raised in order to reach all of the victims. Sadly, in disasters children tend to be the most impacted and that alone is heartbreaking.
Just think, if each one of us donated a dollar to help what a difference that would make.
How you can help:
There are many relief organizations working now in the Philippines to help victims. Here are some that are in immediate need of donations for aid: