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16 Nov, 2013

Philippines: Newly Open Roads, Airports Allow In More Aid But Fuel Shortage Remains


United Nations, (UN News Centre) – Nov 15 2013 – With substantial progress in opening up airports and clear roads in typhoon-hit regions of the Philippines, United Nations agencies and partners are scaling up their support of Government efforts to provide relief, but a major fuel shortage is hampering access to millions of affected people.

“That logistical effort has been the principal focus of humanitarian colleagues on the ground to open up those routes and they have made very substantial progress,” John Ging, Director of the Operational Division at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York.

“Overcoming the obstacles of the roads being destroyed, and communication networks being damaged that all the combination together is really finally coming together,” he noted, adding that the humanitarian community found itself in “a wasteland” earlier in the week.

The death toll stands at 3,600 people, according to the latest figures from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of the Philippines, Mr. Ging said. That figure is expected to rise given the quickly changing context on the ground and the numbers still missing.

During the briefing, Mr. Ging apologized for a discrepancy in the reported death toll which OCHA had said on Thursday was 4,460. That figure was based on estimates and not actual confirmed deaths.

Overall, more than 13 million people have been affected by the crisis. At least 287,000 homes have been destroyed displacing some 1.9 million people who are taking refuge at over 1,100 evacuation centres across the country, he noted.

Fresh and clean water, sanitation, food, and shelter remain the top priorities. The Government, meanwhile, is focusing on regaining control of law and order after reports of violent attacks and looting. “In the affected areas, we are very concerned about those who are most vulnerable, particularly women and children,” Mr. Ging said.

Also speaking to journalists, Ted Chaiban, Director of Emergency Programmes at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said some five million children are believed to be affected by the Typhoon Haiyan. “It is clear that much more needs to be done,” Mr. Chaiban said, “but we’re starting to see a turning of a corner.”

Despite significant risks that remain, he said it is important to start thinking of recovery and reconstruction so that children in Tacloban and other affected areas can be reunited with their families, return to schools and a sense of normalcy.

Of the requested $301 million flash appeal launched on Tuesday, already $72 million has been received, Mr. Ging said, with an additional $153 million donated and a separate $104 million registered in pledges but not yet assigned.

In Tacloban, partial water access has been restored to 200,000 people, the equivalent of 20 per cent of its capacity, said Mr. Chaiban, and a priority is to sustain and increase the flow.

A shortage of fuel remains a concern, with only enough in Tacloban to keep the water on for two days. Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson in Geneva, Elisabeth Byrs, said that truck loans of relief supplies are stuck at Tacloban airport and other service centres for lack of fuel.

In addition, there is very little electricity and telecommunication outside of major cities, but Mr. Chaiban noted he was able to speak with a colleague in Tacloban this morning – a sign that mobile services have been restored.

“He got from the airport to town in a half-hour, whereas two days ago it was taking us an hour and a half, so clearly things are improving in terms of getting more people on the ground,” Mr. Chaiban said.

The eased access and additional air assets, including helicopters donated by international military partners, is allowing more aid to come in by air.

Meanwhile, mobile health clinics are being set up in both towns. According to UN World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Gregory Hartl there are over 20 health teams in various stages of being deployed throughout the region.

Of major concern and an immediate life-saving health need was injury management, he noted, particularly among people who have not yet received medical aid.

“If their injuries were not treated, there would be high chances of their succumbing to their injuries,” Mr. Hartl noted.

The UN agency is also concerned about a lack of access to safe water. A major measles vaccination is to be undertaken in the next week.

 UNHCR gears up typhoon emergency response, flies in aid

CEBU, Philippines, November 15 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency has geared up its emergency aid response for people affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the central Philippines, organizing two airlifts of aid to the city of Cebu. Distribution of relief items in Tacloban City has been under way since mid-week, and a further aid flight from Dubai will be on its way shortly.

UNHCR’s first aid came from the agency’s national stockpiles and reached Tacloban on Wednesday, as part of the wider UN response to the devastation caused by the storm. UNHCR staff have been working with the authorities to help some 7,000 people so far.

The aid was contained in two 40-foot container trucks. These carried 2,000 jerry cans, 1400 hygiene kits, 600 mosquito nets, 1,176 kitchen items, 1,400 plastic sheets, 1,400 blankets and 1,900 sleeping mats. Targeted areas include a very badly-damaged municipality called Tanauan, 45 minutes outside Tacloban.

“Conditions in the Tacloban area remain very difficult. Severe fuel shortages mean that trucks can’t deliver to communities far from the city. Right now there are still urgent need for tents and solar lamps,” a UNHCR spokesman said.

UNHCR staff have been working with our government counterpart to do quick assessments in the east and west of the city to identify specific needs, such as those faced by women, children, the elderly and the disabled. These individuals are being prioritized for aid distribution.

The first Boeing 747 aircraft carrying UNHCR aid landed at 6.30 pm local time on Thursday at Mactan International Airport in Cebu carrying hundreds of family-sized tens. This was followed by the arrival of a second airlift on Friday morning. In all, UNHCR plans to fly in emergency supplies for 16,000 families.

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes. They need tents urgently, especially as rains have continued this week in some areas. “We are working to rush supplies to the neediest people, but this is hampered by limited means to reach these areas,” the spokesman said.

“Aid agencies on the ground in Cebu and typhoon-struck areas are still struggling to meet the huge aid needs. In addition, some truck drivers are reportedly afraid to deliver aid as they fear being ambushed or robbed en route,” he added.

UNHCR’s emergency response is part of the wider United Nations relief effort in the Philippines. UNHCR is co-leading the protection cluster along with the government’s Department of Social Welfare and Development.

ITU deploys satellite communication equipment to the Philippines

Geneva, 13 November 2013 — ITU has dispatched emergency telecommunications equipment to areas severely affected by Typhoon Haiyan – one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded – which tore through the Visayas region of central Philippines on Friday with deadly force, making landfall five times, in the provinces of Eastern Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Panay Island and Palawan. The combination of powerful winds and seawater has devastated buildings, communities and families.

Damage to critical telecommunications infrastructure has made rapid assessment difficult, and authorities are still determining casualty figures. Given the extent of the damage it could be weeks or months before physical telecommunications infrastructure is repaired or replaced. In the meantime, satellite equipment provided by ITU to the Philippine authorities will help ensure that essential telecommunications services can be quickly provided through satellite, to enable much-needed support for search and rescue services as well as the need for families to re-establish contacts.

ITU has deployed 50 Thuraya satellite phones equipped with GPS to facilitate search and rescue efforts, along with 30 Iridium satellite phones, 20 Inmarsat Broadband Global Area Network terminals, and a Qualcomm CDMA base station. The equipment can be charged by car batteries and is also supplied with solar panels to enable operation during power outages.

In the immediate aftermath of the typhoon, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré expressed to the Government of the Philippines his profound sorrow at the loss of life, injuries and human displacement as well as the extensive damage to property and infrastructure. With the deployment of emergency telecommunications equipment, Dr Touré said “ITU is prepared to help the government and people of the Philippines in every way possible in their hour of need, and to deal with the colossal tragedy that has overwhelmed the country with unimaginable loss of life and property. I hope the deployment of emergency telecommunications equipment will assist the government of the Philippines in search and rescue operations and re-establish vital communication links.”

Re-establishing communications is a critical service, particularly in the immediate aftermath of disasters to ensure timely intervention and support for the victims, to assist in rescue and rehabilitation efforts and to enable families to re-establish links with loved ones.

“Our aim is to ensure that the national and international humanitarian community has reliable access to telecommunications to enable them to serve affected people and save lives,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU. “This disaster comes just after the first sitting of the Advisory Board for Smart Sustainable Development, a new initiative to ensure better preparedness and response in times like this. We offer our deep condolences to families who lost loved ones. I hope this equipment will help support ongoing work and we are ready to give immediate support during the rehabilitation of affected telecommunications infrastructure.”

ITU experts have been deployed to the Philippines and are working with the authorities to train first responders in the use of the equipment during search and rescue operations and for logistical support.

ADB Extends $23 Million for Immediate Relief and $500 Million for Reconstructing Typhoon-ravaged Areas

13 November 2013, MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide $23 million in grants to the Philippines to address immediate needs, and stands ready to provide a $500 million emergency loan to help reconstruct communities devastated by Typhoon Yolanda, also known internationally as Typhoon Haiyan.

“We are working in close collaboration with the government and all other international agencies to provide hope and rebuild the lives of more than 11 million people affected by what is being described as one of the Philippines’ worst ever natural disasters,” said ADB President Takehiko Nakao.

Of the $23 million in grants being provided for immediate relief assistance for affected communities, $3 million will come from the Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund, ADB’s emergency assistance facility, and $20 million from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, a Trust Fund financed by the Government of Japan.

In addition to the immediate relief assistance, ADB stands ready to provide a $500 million quick-disbursing program loan to help post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction. ADB will work with bilateral and multilateral development partners for timely and effective reconstruction. In this regard, the first coordination meeting was held at ADB today with World Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

ADB is also exploring other ways of mobilizing resources including the establishment of an ADB-administered multi-donor trust fund.

ADB has formed the Typhoon Yolanda Response Team, made up of 40 senior staff members from across the Bank with experience in post-disaster situations, to coordinate with the government and development partners. The team will soon be engaged in a comprehensive damage and needs assessment for recovery and rehabilitation.

“ADB will provide full support to the people and the Government of the Philippines together with other development partners to speedily implement both needed relief and reconstruction – especially as the Philippines is our home,” Mr. Nakao said.