UNHCR relief focus on area near typhoon-hit Tacloban, more aid coming in by air

Briefing Notes, 15 November 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 15 November 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR aid efforts for people affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines have geared up further over the last couple of days with the arrival of two airlifts into Cebu. Distribution of aid 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 our national stockpiles and reached Tacloban City on Wednesday, as part of the UN response. UNHCR staff have been working with the authorities to help some 7000 people so far. The aid was contained in two 40-foot container trucks. These carried 2000 jerry cans, 1400 hygiene kits 600 mosquito nets, 1176 kitchen items, 1400 plastic sheets 1400 blankets and 1900 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.

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 yesterday at Mactan International Airport in Cebu carrying hundreds of family-sized tens. This was followed by the arrival of a second airlift this morning local time. 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.

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.

UNHCR's emergency response is part of the wider United Nations relief effort in the Philippines. We are co-leading the Protection Cluster along with the national Department of Social Welfare and Development of the government of the Philippines.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Tacloban, Vivian Tan on mobile +639175963484 (English, Mandarin)
  • Arjun Jain on mobile +639999939417 and sat phone +8821651208661 (English)
  • In Manila, Bernard Kerblat on mobile +639175963491 (French, English, Thai)
  • Karin de Gruijl on mobile +63 91 834 3838 (Spanish, Dutch, English)
  • Marie Michelle Liquigan on mobile +639189208765 (English, Filipino)
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 5579120 (English)
  • Marie Delphine on mobile +41 79 500 9474(French, English)
  • Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 9106 (English, Urdu, Hindi)
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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

Picking Up the Pieces in Sri Lanka

In an unprecedented response to a natural disaster, the U.N. refugee agency – whose mandate is to protect refugees fleeing violence and persecution – has kicked off a six-month, multi-million dollar emergency relief operation to aid tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Somalia. UNHCR has worked in Sri Lanka for nearly 20 years and has the largest operational presence in the country with seven offices, 113 staff and a strong network of partnerships in place. The day of the tsunami, UNHCR opened up its warehouses in the island nation and began distributing existing stockpiles – including plastic sheeting, cooking sets and clothing for 100,000 people.

UNHCR estimates that some 889,000 people are now displaced in Sri Lanka, including many who were already displaced by the long-running conflict in the north. Prior to the tsunami, UNHCR assisted 390,000 people uprooted by the war. UNHCR is now expanding its logistical and warehouse capacity throughout the island to facilitate delivery of relief items to the needy populations, including in the war-affected area. The refugee agency is currently distributing relief items and funding mobile health clinics to assist the injured and sick.

Picking Up the Pieces in Sri Lanka

Cyclone Devastation in Myanmar

On 2/3 May, Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar, killing thousands of people and leaving more than 1 million homeless. As a rapid initial response to the crisis, the UNHCR office in Yangon purchased US$50,000 of plastic sheeting and canned food for distribution to cyclone victims.

Since then, the UN refugee agency – in the first overland convoy of aid – trucked in 22 tonnes of tents and plastic sheets from stocks in north-western Thailand. In addition, more than 100 tonnes of plastic tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets and mosquito nets are being airlifted in from UNHCR's regional stockpile in Dubai.

Although the UNHCR is not usually involved in natural disaster relief operations, it has responded to the cyclone crisis because of the scale of the devastation, the urgent needs of the victims, and the proximity of its emergency relief supplies to Myanmar.

Posted on 15 May 2008

Cyclone Devastation in Myanmar

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