|Above and below: Supplies at Caritas Manila, being rapidly sorted and sifted for distribution to populations affected by Typhoon Haiyan. (Photos courtesy of Caritas)|
Assessing the damage, reaching those affected, transporting supplies, and helping rebuild a country and its people so that they are better prepared when the next crisis comes are all part of the challenge Catholic Relief Services and the agencies we are working with are facing going forward in the Philippines.
As we gain increased access to areas struck by Typhoon Haiyan, we are seeing the fuller picture of its devastation, which is catastrophic.
Images from the sky and stories on the ground tell scenes of families pulled apart, villages and homes washed away, and lives claimed in rushing waters. We are reminded of the severity of loss in the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and Haiti earthquake of 2010. Millions of people need help.
Basic Life Essentials Needed
The people of the Philippines urgently need the most basic life essentials—food, water, shelter, medical care, sanitation.
Families are sleeping in the elements and need the basics just to get by. People have limited access to clean drinking water due to the loss of electricity, damage to pipes and contamination of water sources. Hygiene and sanitation are critical to maintain in order to prevent waterborne diseases that often occur in crowded, polluted conditions. Emergency shelter remains a top priority: With the unprecedented wind speeds of Typhoon Haiyan, large swaths of land have been devastated, with winds blazing through homes in its path. Based on population figures where the typhoon made direct hits, an estimated 200,000 homes could be destroyed.
Helping 500,000 Survivors
Catholic Relief Services plans to help 100,000 Filipino families (500,000 people) with shelter support, livelihoods, water and sanitation, hygiene, and vital living supplies.
In coordination with Caritas and local diocesan partners/volunteer networks, Catholic Relief Services will provide shelter materials, essential living supplies, and clean water and sanitation. We will continue to identify the most vulnerable communities that need our help. CRS is coordinating with commercial, private, government, and donor avenues for shipment of pre-positioned tarps, hygiene and water kits. This initial effort is the start of broader efforts to help people achieve a full recovery, an effort that will likely span at least two years or more.
Catholic Relief Services hopes to raise $20 million for this vital emergency response.
With a strategized plan to address both immedate and long-term needs for the Filipino community, Catholic Relief Services estimates $5 million to cover the immediate assistance on the ground, and $15 million for the medium-term rebuilding and recovery needs-particularly with regard to shelter, water infrastructure, sanitation and livelihoods recovery. Catholic Relief Services will be seeking this critical support from individuals, dioceses, private and public donors, and will provide thorough, timely updates on the program activities.
The timeliness of our response can mean the difference between life and death.
A singular event like a typhoon, especially for those in impoverished parts of our world, can derail a family’s stability, deplete a lifetime of savings, and push them over poverty’s edge. For larger communities, the devastation to infrastructure, economy and reserves can set back a generation. Catholic Relief Services deployed its teams instantly across the heavily affected areas to determine the most pressing needs and how best to help. Your continued support allows us to reach more people, more communities, with vital help now, and to stay with them for as long as it takes to achieve a full recovery. A little goes a long way and we need your help.
Overcoming Major Challenges
Our teams and others face challenges getting relief supplies to those affected due to the scale of the disaster, blocked roads, damage to transportation infrastructure, and the fact that relief supplies were also destroyed by the typhoon. The airport’s air traffic control and fuel storage facility were damaged. Philippines’ Bohol area also recently suffered a major earthquake in October, depleting supplies and displacing 350,000 people. We are working around the clock in coordination with other relief agencies, the Philippine government, and the local Catholic church, to bring help. Catholic Relief Services already has staff in the affected areas.
CRS Roots in the Philippines
Located along the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is vulnerable to typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Although the country is rapidly urbanizing, many people still live in poverty, particularly in rural areas where farmers struggle to eke out a living. In the southern Philippines, long-standing conflicts exist between different groups.
Catholic Relief Services’ program in the Philippines is our oldest continuously operating country program. Prompted by the mass destruction and loss of life in the Philippines during World War II, Catholic Relief Services, then called War Relief Services, first launched relief efforts in that country in 1945. Just one year later, the agency was providing supplies to more than 800,000 people.
Today, Catholic Relief Services focuses on agro-enterprise and peacebuilding programs in Mindanao and has teams at the ready to respond to natural disasters. Catholic Relief Services’ agricultural programs in the Philippines lift small-scale farmers from poverty by linking them to more profitable markets. Our peacebuilding programs lessen violence, improve livelihoods and help create tolerance in the south.
We benefit from a close partnership with the Catholic Church in the Philippines and around the world. The Church’s presence as one of the world’s most stable institutions and social service providers, matched by Catholic Relief Services’ technical expertise, gives us a tremendous advantage of being positioned to reach those most in need.