Typhoon Haiyan: Survivors leave home areas in search of family and aid

News Stories, 19 November 2013

© UNHCR/R.Rocamora
Typhoon survivors cross the parking apron at Tacloban Airport to catch a plane bound for Cebu City, where they hope to find help.

CEBU, Philippines, November 19 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that thousands of typhoon survivors in the Philippines are believed to have left their home areas in places like Tacloban in search of family and assistance in surrounding regions or as far away as Cebu and Manila.

Shortly after the typhoon hit on November 8, people started leaving by sea and air. Cargo flights delivering aid from Cebu to Tacloban, Guiuan and other places have been returning with plane loads of displaced people every day. The full number is still unclear. According to the Philippines government as many as 4 million people could now be internally displaced.

Starting on Wednesday, UNHCR and its partners will set up a designated area at the airport in Tacloban to collect information on these displaced people, their destinations and vulnerabilities, and to try and ensure assistance on arrival and to prevent trafficking incidents. This protection monitoring system is expected to expand to other areas that displaced people are leaving from.

On Monday, UNHCR field protection teams arrived in Ormoc in western Leyte and Guiuan in Eastern Samar, where Typhoon Haiyan first made landfall.

The teams are equipped with trucks and fuel supplies to support two newly-established humanitarian hubs. Their work will initially focus on establishing protection coordination mechanisms and assessing the needs in and around Ormoc and Guiuan. The aim is to facilitate the prompt delivery of aid, and to ensure that people with specific needs are receiving help, especially in remote locations.

In Ormoc, the local authorities told UNHCR staff that most of the 109 affected administrative areas, or barangays, have received some form of assistance. Food, medicines and shelter materials such as plastic rolls are still urgently needed. A few areas have yet to receive non-food supplies such as plastic sheets and blankets.

The UNHCR team in Ormoc was today visiting areas outside the city to assess the situation and needs in rural areas.

Communications with UNHCR staff in Guiuan remain difficult because of the damage to infrastructure. Survivors report that entire villages along the coast were wiped out by the typhoon and storm surge.

In Tacloban, UNHCR has been distributing plastic sheets and blankets in Barangay 88, one of the hardest-hit areas of the city. We have also sent family-sized tents to Tanauan, south of Tacloban, to help the authorities set up a temporary tented site for displaced people, where UNHCR relief supplies arrived last week. Some 15,000 people in both areas have been assisted so far.

UNHCR aid continues to arrive in the country through airlifts. Two further aid flights are expected today. In total, nine flights will bring 10,000 tents, 112,000 blankets, 66,000 plastic sheets, 9,000 solar-powered lanterns and other relief supplies for a total of more than 100,000 people. On arrival in Cebu, these items are quickly moved to the affected areas through a combination of air, sea and land transport.

At the request of UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, UNHCR has increased its volume of aid and raised its appeal to US$15 million. In addition to providing relief items, UNHCR is also co-leading the inter-agency protection cluster with the government to ensure that protection concerns remain a key consideration in interventions by all other clusters, and that people with specific needs have access to assistance and services.