Nov 2013


Philippines Relief – Update from the Advanced Team

The advanced team has now been in the Philippines for a week. The team has been gathering vital information about the situation on the ground. The team has been based in Cebu, which has become the operations base for many other International NGOs and the United Nations.

The photo below was taken during an assessment of the North Cebu area.

PBV assessed Bogo, Medellin and Daanbantayan, all mountainous regions in the norh of Cebu, with CWS-Asia/Pacific, an International NGO with which we have worked both in Tohoku and in our Disaster Relief Volunteer Training Programme. Although these areas were not directly affected by storm surges, a large portion of the homes were destroyed during the Typhoon and basic lifelines such as electricity and water are still down. Although the local authorities are distributing emergency supplies, the majority of households are still lacking in many basic necessities. Given that some of these areas were battling poverty from before the typhoon, the ability to recover is a true challenge under these extreme circumstances.

This school has recommenced lessons, but the roof of the building is still missing. All of the textbooks and teaching materials were also destroyed during Typhoon Haiyan. The teachers attempted to dry these materials outside, but they will most likely be unusable. The United Nations and the authorities, as well as numerous domestic and international NGOs have been working hard to reach all of the affected communities; however, the areas that have sustained damage are so extensive that it is impossible to reach all of those in need.

CWS-Asia/Pacific is a humanitarian aid NGO that has extensive experience working in disaster-stricken areas such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand and Myanmar. The organization actively promotes international humanitarian aid standards such as the “Sphere Project”, and prioritizes these standards when working in the field. PBV joined their emergency supplies distribution activities in the north of Cebu as volunteers, where supplies were distributed to communities in partnership with local NGOs and communication with local communities was always maintained to ensure needs-based assistance.

The Cebu and Bohol Islands are still bearing scars from the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the area on October 15th. Even Mactan Island, where PBV has been based during the week, experienced severe damage and many buildings were destroyed during the tremor. Despite shouldering these burdens, local communities are taking in and looking after those from Leyte and Samar Islands who have fled the area via United Nations and Military planes and boats. There are a number of evacuation centers on the island and evacuees are arriving in large groups on a daily basis.

During this first week, we have been working closely with FJERA (Filipino Japanese Emergency Response Association), who specialize in rescue and firefighting. On the island of Cebu, a world-renowned diving destination, FJERA often conducts water rescue operations in non-disaster times. One of our main contacts, Suzuki, has experience with firefighting in Japan and was involved in relief work after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Cecilia, who is part of the Cebu branch, has been a great help to us through her Bisayan-language interpreting skills and has helped us with transport and logistics.

We have been working in partnership with FJERA in the barangay (town/settlement) of Babag, where we have been distributing food and healthcare items to 200 survivors of Typhoon Haiyan who have fled Leyte and Samar Islands. This served as a reminder that those who need assistance are not only in the affected areas, as the exodus of people from the islands has led to a severe need for aid to be delivered to those who have temporarily relocated to different areas.

In this area, evacuees are staying in a make-shift center in a large gymnasium, where there are enough of the basic items such as food, water, clothing, bedding and healthcare supplies. A local restaurant has been working very hard to supply at least one cooked meal to those staying in the evacuation center, but not all meals can be covered. When FJERA and PBV heard that there would not be a meal provided on the evening of 21st November, we provided a meal pack for the evacuees.

We provided a meal, juice and an apple to approximately 250 individuals, where apples seemed to be the favourite item. Nutrition and ‘comfort’ are extremely important when providing these meals, given the uncertainties and stressful conditions which the survivors are faced with every day.

Staying in these kinds of conditions can lead to serious health and psychosocial issues. Local nurses provide check-up services for the evacuees but it is difficult to meet all needs due to the lack of medical and healthcare items.

PBV used some of the money raised in our Philippines Emergency Relief Fund to donate 4 thermometers, 3 blood-pressure meters and 2 wheelchairs to local healthcare professionals. Mitos, a local healthcare worker, expressed thanks for the donations as she transported a sick evacuee using one of the wheelchairs. We may not have the funding to provide these kinds of much-needed supplies in large quantities, but we will continue to help those in need in any way that we can.

Next week, we will temporarily leave Cebu Island in order to gather more information and to establish our strategic action plan going forward.

Thank you for all of those who have donated and who have made these activities possible.