UNHCR gears up typhoon emergency response, flies in aid

Making a Difference, 15 November 2013

© UNHCR/V.Tan
Workers in the central Philippines city of Cebu unload UNHCR aid from a Boeing 747. The aid is for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

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.

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Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

Six months after Typhoon Haiyan carved its deadly and destructive path through the central Philippines and forcibly displaced 4 million Filipinos, the area is like a big construction site as people get on with rebuilding their flattened homes as well as their lives. Many have moved into renovated homes while thousands of those who fled to cities like Cebu and Manila have returned home. But large numbers still live in tents or former evacuation centres; full recovery is still some way off and many people need help. UNHCR is working with the government and other partners to address the challenges and find solutions for the displaced. The refugee agency has provided assistance to more than 600,000 people, distributing shelter materials and household items, including solar-powered lanterns in areas where there is still no electricity. UNHCR is also supporting a government-led mobile civil registration project to give 100,000 people continued access to social welfare, education and employment. Photographer Jeoffrey Maitem marked the six-month milestone by visiting communities recovering from Typhoon Haiyan.

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

An estimated 13 million people were affected when Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8. Thousands were killed and about 3 million are believed to be displaced - some of them living in evacuation sites, others on the ruins of their former homes. Tacloban City in Leyte province was one of the hardest-hit areas. A week after the typhoon made landfall, large parts of its coast remain flattened and piles of debris still line the streets. Working with the Philippines government and UN and NGO partners, UNHCR is airlifting emergency supplies for thousands of survivors. The agency is delivering tents, plastic sheets, mosquito nets and other critical aid. It is also co-leading the protection cluster with the government, working to identify vulnerable people and ensuring that they have access to basic assistance and services. UNHCR has appealed for US$15 million to meet these critical needs. UNHCR is now present in Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte province, as well as Guiuan in Eastern Samar province.

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

One Year On: Thousands Still Recovering from Typhoon Haiyan

On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan - one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record anywhere - ran ashore in the central Philippines, causing wide devastation, displacing 4 million people and killing at least 6,300. A year on, and the recovery work still goes on. While most of the 4.1 million people who were displaced have either returned home to rebuild, or been relocated, solutions are still needed for some 20,000 people either living in shelters or - in a small number of cases - with host families.

The UN refugee agency and partners such as shipments and logistics giant United Parcel Service (UPS) were swift to respond last November, contributing funds for immediate needs and for long-term recovery. Funding was used to provide critical aid during the emergency, including tents, solar-powered lanterns and protection kits.

A year after the typhoon struck, some people in Leyte province, one of the areas hardest hit, are still rebuilding their lives. People still need help with physical dwellings, water and sanitation, hygiene, as well as land and property issues. Some live in tents, others have moved into transitional housing and some families are building new houses. Despite the trauma, there is a real sense of hope for the future among the people of Leyte. Photographer Phil Behan and UNHCR staff member Marjanna Bergman visited the central Philippines to record the situation today.

One Year On: Thousands Still Recovering from Typhoon Haiyan

Philippines: One Year After Typhoon HaiyanPlay video

Philippines: One Year After Typhoon Haiyan

On November 8 last year, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines, causing widespread devastation and killing thousands of people. A year on, and the recovery work still goes on. Bartolome on Leyte Island looks back at his family's experience, including living on a dredger for several weeks after their home was destroyed.
Philippines: One Year After Typhoon HaiyanPlay video

Philippines: One Year After Typhoon Haiyan

On November 8 last year, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines, causing widespread devastation and killing thousands of people. A year on, and the recovery work still goes on. Bartolome on Leyte Island looks back at his family's experience, including living on a dredger for several weeks after their home was destroyed.
Philippines : Rebuilding a Year After Typhoon HaiyanPlay video

Philippines : Rebuilding a Year After Typhoon Haiyan

One year ago, the central Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, a massive storm that wiped out entire communities and killed more than 6,000 people. Today, the residents of hard-hit areas such as Leyte Island are well on their way to rebuilding their lives.