BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Two weeks after Typhoon Bopha hit the southern Philippines, killing more than 1,000 people, almost a million survivors are living outside evacuation centres and need urgent assistance, especially shelter, aid agencies say.
The most intense storm to hit the disaster-prone Philippines this year struck Mindanao island, flooding farming and mining towns and burying many people in mudslides.
"On the eastern coast of Mindanao, where the typhoon hit first and the hardest, even many evacuation centres were not spared and collapsed during the storm," said Cynthia Lee, the communication coordinator for the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) in Philippines.
"So today, we haven't seen the more common situation of people gathering in evacuation centres," she told AlertNet.
According to the United Nations' latest report on the disaster, about 26,000 people are in 63 evacuation centres while 960,000 others are living in the ruins of their homes, open areas or with host communities.
"The biggest needs right now are emergency shelter," David Carden, head of the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Philippines, told AlertNet by phone from the affected area.
"We've just been today to Boston, Cateel and Baganga. These are some of the most affected (municipalities) and almost all the houses are destroyed," he added.
The typhoon made landfall in the early hours of Dec 4, the 16th storm to hit the Philippines this year, wiping out communities near the coast in the southern provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley. Nearly 850 people remain missing.
A small number of families are taking temporary shelter in parts of schools that are still standing during the evening while making emergency repairs to their house during the day, ICRC's Lee said.
"More often, you can find those who have completely lost their homes by the side of the road staying in structures they pieced together by debris they have found or material received from aid agencies," Lee said.
"People are still struggling to find ways to shield themselves from the hot sun or pouring rain that is beating down on the area," she added.
OCHA's Carden said another urgent need was to clear away the debris as it could pose health risks. He said cases of diarrhoea were on the rise in the hospital he visited, while the U.N. report said cases of acute respiratory infections are increasing, citing local health officials.
Power and telecommunications are also still down in the worst-hit municipalities, yet families who have lost everything are working to get back on their feet, aid workers say.
"We saw the resourcefulness of the people with our eyes. People want to get back to their feet. What we need to do is to provide them with the tools - like shelter repair kits - to do so," Carden said.
The United Nations launched an appeal for $65 million on Dec. 10 to respond to the disaster.
"The tremendous destruction has had an impact on all basic needs - food, shelter, access to water and medical care," said ICRC's Lee, whose organisation has appealed for $10.8 million to scale up the response.