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Philippines storm survivors in 'critical' need of shelter - Red Cross

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 10 Jan 2013 13:06 GMT
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BANGKOK (AlertNet) - Five weeks after Typhoon Bopha killed more than 1,000 people and affected 6 million in the southern Philippines, hundreds of thousands of survivors are in critical need of better shelter, the Red Cross has said.

The most intense storm to hit the disaster-prone Southeast Asian nation last year struck Mindanao island in the early hours of Dec. 4, flooding farming and mining towns and burying many people in mudslides. More than 210,000 houses were totally or partially damaged, and over 800 people remain missing.

According to the United Nations’ latest report on the disaster, close to 14,000 displaced people are in evacuation centres, while almost a million are living in the ruins of their homes, out in open areas or with host communities.

The need for shelter is “extremely critical”, said Katerine Roux, regional communications manager for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Bangkok, who was recently in Mindanao.

“People are still very vulnerable,” she told AlertNet. “During the holiday season alone, when two storms triggered heavy rains in Mindanao, the typhoon-affected families had to endure the harsh weather inside the tents.”

An assessment of shelter needs released this week said the typhoon’s impact was “extreme”, leaving 93 percent of homes of the 3,056 households surveyed in two of the hardest-hit provinces “uninhabitable”.

It also found that only 4 percent of the households had access to electricity and a little over half had access to water.

LACK OF FUNDS

The United Nations launched an appeal for $65 million on Dec. 10 to fund the response to the disaster, and as of Jan. 8, a third of this had been donated. The IFRC has also asked for 16.2 million Swiss francs ($17.5 million) to help the Philippines Red Cross assist 40,000 families for the next 18 months.

But aid workers are concerned by a shortage of money for shelter needs specifically.  

"Currently there is almost no funding to provide for urgently required shelter repair kits to make the self-help emergency shelters more adequate and safer, until a more permanent solution can be found," said IFRC's Michael Gloeckle, who is coordinating international aid agencies' work on shelter under the U.N. “cluster” system. 

Mindanao - historically typhoon-free - has suffered two storms in two years, catching many unawares.

A 31-year-old whose house was brought down by heavy winds told Roux: “We were informed by our local officials that a storm is coming, but knowing that my parents have been here for a long time and no typhoon has ever been here, we disregarded that warning.”

The storm devastated a large swathe of the region, and there are still areas that are only accessible by foot, Roux said.

“One of the challenges for the Philippine Red Cross is the fact that the needs are so vast,” she said.

Further rain has complicated the aid effort, causing more landslides in some typhoon-affected areas in the past few days, she added.

“(Shelter) is often the first step to obtaining privacy and independence, and it is a method of protection from the elements, which is particularly important in this region of the Philippines where it is constantly raining,” Roux said.

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