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Working together but miles apart

Source: ShelterBox - Tue, 3 Dec 2013 01:39 PM
Author: ShelterBox
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Map showing the five different areas of concentration for ShelterBox’s operational response so far.
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

With Response Team members operating across five different islands, ShelterBox’s operational response to Typhoon Haiyan is proving to be one of the most complex and large scale of recent years.

Typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc across the coastal islands of the Philippines causing up to 95% damage in some towns and cities. This left communities reeling but also caused widespread infrastructure and communications damage heavily hampering the ability of governments, aid agencies and NGOs to respond swiftly.

Multiple teams, multiple locations

ShelterBox’s in country Operations Coordinator for this response is Alice Jefferson (UK) who has the task of overseeing the delivery of aid to the families in most need:

‘We currently have five separate areas within the Philippines from where we are moving either vitally needed ShelterBox aid, our Response Teams or both.’

Alice and her teammates are operating from outside Cebu City on Cebu Island where they are overseeing operations and acting as a key link in the logistics chain as aid passes through Cebu and onwards to Bantayan Islands to the north and Leyte Island in the east.

ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs) are also operating on the Island of Bohol where earlier in the year a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck, damaging buildings and infrastructure and claiming lives across the region. ShelterBox responded to the earthquake, sending a Response Team to the affected area. The team were distributing aid on Bohol Island when Typhoon Haiyan struck and have been continuing distribution of ShelterBox tents since. Having completed the current distribution on Bohol Island the team is now travelling to join the team on Cebu.

On the remote island of Bantayan the SRTs have been distributing much needed aid to families who have lost their homes since Typhoon Haiyan hit. The island has a population of 30,000 people and some 27,000 are now feared to be without homes.

Logistical challenges

Meanwhile another SRT has been operating in Manila to help oversee the movement of aid through to Cebu island. The logistics of getting aid cleared through airports and harbours is, in itself, a challenge due to the damaged infrastructure and the surge of overseas freight arriving in the Philippines. Experience gained from years of responding to disasters such as the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 and the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 has allowed the ShelterBox Operations team to ‘drip-feed’ a constant supply of aid into the Philippines through a variety of different entrance points. This has in turn enabled the Response Teams on the ground in the Philippines to have a continual but manageable flow of aid to distribute amongst the Typhoon affected communities.

An SRT is now beginning assessment and possible distribution of further aid on Leyte Island. ShelterBox aid will continue to arrive in coming weeks and Response Teams on the ground will continue to explore new ways of getting vitally needed shelter and aid to families who have lost everything as a result of Typhoon Haiyan.

‘When you’re coordinating an operational response you’re dealing with a lot of numbers but it’s important to remember that each of those numbers is a tent - a home for a family that has lost everything.’ Alice Jefferson, ShelterBox Operations Coordinator.

If you would like to support our ongoing efforts please donate to the ShelterBox Typhoon Haiyan Emergency Appeal.

Thank you.

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