Typhoon Haiyan: UNHCR reaches out to more communities, addresses gaps

Making a Difference, 22 November 2013

© UNHCR/R.Rocamora
Workers distribute plastic sheets in a district of Tacloban City.

CEBU, Philippines, November 22 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency continues to reach out to communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the central Philippines, deploying staff this week to Ormoc in western Leyte province and Guiuan in Eastern Samar province.

"They have been visiting numerous administrative units barangays to assess the evolving protection and other needs of typhoon survivors. They found some gaps that are being addressed," UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said on Friday.

In some remote areas of Guiuan, where the typhoon first made landfall on November 8, logistical problems have hampered the smooth distribution of aid, including to the islands of Homonhon and Suluan. In addition, a community of 50 indigenous families have not been receiving food.

As the co-lead for the inter-agency protection cluster, UNHCR is working with the government and the World Food Programme to address these gaps and ensure that all affected groups can receive assistance equitably.

"Our staff also noticed that many communities are slowly getting back on their feet, especially in the city centres. Some shops are starting to reopen and commercial activities are resuming. In areas like Ormoc's barangay, Tagatay, where most of the houses were affected, people have started building makeshift shelters while repairing their houses," the spokesman said.

However, the situation in suburban and rural areas remains difficult. To date, UNHCR has distributed relief items to 23,000 typhoon survivors in Tacloban's San Jose and Bagacay areas, and in Tanauan. The areas south of Tacloban such as Tanauan, Julita and Talosa are severely affected and could take a longer time to recover. In the last two days, UNHCR has been sending teams there to assess needs and coordinate aid distribution.

In addition, UNHCR has also given an initial batch of 64 tents to help decongest schools currently being used to provide shelter. This will help to reopen schools.

"In Tacloban, we have received additional items from Cebu and expect supplies from Manila shortly. These will bring a total of 3,000 tents, 16,000 plastic sheets, 46,000 blankets and other urgently needed items. We are dispatching some of these supplies to Guiuan and Ormoc based on identified needs. These items will provide some respite from the elements while survivors focus on rebuilding their homes," said UNHCR's Baloch.

Meanwhile, thousands of displaced people continue to leave Leyte province by air and sea. On Wednesday, UNHCR set up tents at Tacloban airport to provide shelter to the waiting crowd. The International Organization for Migration and the government's Department of Social Welfare and Development have been registering people leaving on cargo planes, collecting data on their destination, needs and vulnerabilities.

This monitoring service provided by the protection cluster at the government's request seeks to ensure assistance for vulnerable people and to prevent trafficking.

By the end of Thursday, some 890 displaced people had been registered at Tacloban airport before departure. According to the authorities in Ormoc and Guiuan, hundreds of people are also leaving every day by air to Cebu and Manila. Many more are taking the sea route. The monitoring service will be expanded to these departure areas soon.