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Just four weeks ago, the most powerful storm in recorded history, battered the Visaya’s region of the Philippines, causing an unprecedented level of destruction that left thousands dead and the country reeling.
Over 1.1 million homes were damaged or destroyed, water and electricity supply was totally disrupted, local markets shut down and food was alarmingly scarce.
One month on, as relief efforts continue, humanitarian operations are now moving into early recovery. Together with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC) has been striving to support hundreds of thousands of people in the communities hit hardest particularly in Leyte province.
Since the typhoon, 12 IFRC Emergency Response Units from Red Cross National Societies across the globe have been deployed. These teams specialise in shelter, water and sanitation, health, relief, logistics and telecommunications. The IFRC and PRC have established an operations centre in Cebu City which has handled the arrival of 24 cargo flights bringing more than a thousand tonnes of aid arriving from Asia and Europe. These supplies which include hygiene kits, emergency shelter materials, kitchen sets and blankets have been distributed to more than 65,000 people via logistics hubs established in Iloilo in Panay, Tacloban in Leyte and Maya in northern Cebu.
The Philippine Red Cross has ensured more than 400,000 people have received food supplies in nine of the most severely affected provinces in the Visayas region. Red Cross Basic Healthcare Units and first aid posts have helped to avert any disease outbreaks and hundreds of thousands of litres of clean water produced by Emergency Response Units have been tankered to local residents and evacuation centres which continue to house almost 100,000 people.
Speaking from the Philippines, IFRC secretary general, Bekele Geleta, said: “There are still needs and gaps in delivery of food delivery and emergency shelter materials to some areas, but now we must gradually need to reduce dependency on food aid and accelerate cash for work and cash transfer programmes that put money in people’s pockets. Millions have lost their livelihoods and this approach will enable them to buy what they need while also revitalising the local economy”.
Next week, the IFRC is launching a cash grant scheme targeting 50,000 families in the Iloilo, Roxas, Tacloban, Ormoc and Antinque.
Shelter remains the biggest challenge in the weeks and months ahead. For the IFRC supporting people to return and build back their homes is a priority.
Debris clearance is one of the biggest obstacles and the IFRC’s cash-for-work programme will see 3,000 people working to clear the mountains of debris from the streets in the worst affected municipalities south of Palo Leyte. “People need better access to their former homes so that they can return and rebuild. We expect recovery efforts to continue for the next three to four years and providing families with the materials, tools and technical know-how to build back safer homes will be a top priority,” explains Mr. Geleta.