In the recent double disaster Philippines has found itself with more than 4 million displaced, 1,757 missing and an official death toll to be reported to have reached 5,500, though unofficially it is predicted to be more.
Many international organisations quickly put fundraising campaigns into gear but more importantly dispensed their teams into the affected areas with aid, medical supplies and human resources.
Philippines is one of the very few developing countries that actively help their most vulnerable groups of people as Restless Beings discovered in a previous article. It is therefore no surprise that the government and local NGOs were quick to set up services and aid in the affected regions.
Yet, even with weeks of preparation, CCTFSC’s Programme Coordinator, Redentor Betito, says: “Our government disaster personnel were also victims, the equipment and food packs they prepared were lost and the local government has become non-existent. They were supposed to be the first person to respond, but [they couldn’t], because a number of them died or [their] family members did...”.
Nevertheless CCTFSC, as well as a number of key local charities, believe the current president is doing the best he can, given the circumstance. He goes on to state how Cebu City has tried to accommodate: “Our government have [displaced families] at the moment in 3 different sports centres here in [Cebu] city. Currently, there are more than 6,000 persons from Leyte and Samar provinces that evacuated here in Cebu City since basic necessities are scarce there”.
Despite all the efforts, some of the international organisations have found it incredibly challenging to reach pockets of people. Matt Crook, from Plan International, currently based in Manila touched on a few: “…there are many; the main one is the transport links…roads have been blocked and it's been very difficult to reach affected areas. You can see a video shot by one of our staff here. Then there's the problem of communications as networks are still down, as is electricity in many places. So there are a large number of challenges, esp. in getting to people in remote areas…”.
CAFOD mirrors similar challenges regarding transportation and communication links and further add, “Organising and preparing the volume of supplies needed does take up a considerable amount of time. In Manila, over 250 volunteers have been working shifts to fill food packs, medical packs and relief packs to then be sent out to areas in need.”
Many of the most vulnerable members of society have suffered greatly. The UN estimates that at least 1.8 million children have been displaced and some 1.5 million children are at risk of acute malnutrition.
Matt from Plan International, from his firsthand experience tells Restless Beings, “The children in the Philippines have obviously been deeply affected by this disaster, and many will have seen and experienced things no child should go through. Many have lost friends, and family. Many will need psychosocial support now to help them process what's happened...It's important that the children get back to "normal" routine as soon as possible. So the children have been through a lot, but many are still smiling. They want to play, be with their friends, go to school and do the things children do”.
International aid and medical supplies are being provided to the children of Philippines as well as government led initiatives. ''Different member agencies that operate shelters are readily available to accept referrals for children that need to be placed in centre-based institutions. So far, the number of children that are placed in institutions is very minimal since evacuated families do not want to be separated by their children.”
Restless Beings recommends you send any donations to the DEC and continue to help the people of Philippines regain the calm after the devastating storm.