News / Asia

    Humanitarian Crisis Looms in Philippines

    Desperate villagers rush to a window of a U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter as crewmen deliver aid in an emergency drop in San Jose, Philippines, Nov. 18, 2013.
    Desperate villagers rush to a window of a U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter as crewmen deliver aid in an emergency drop in San Jose, Philippines, Nov. 18, 2013.
    Simone Orendain
    In the Philippines, authorities are getting a better handle on the extent of the damage from Typhoon Haiyan, as more disaster responders penetrate remote areas.  They have determined that more than one million homes and 3,200 public schools have been destroyed.  While aid is reaching some remote areas, authorities are having difficulty sustaining regular deliveries.

    The United Nations humanitarian affairs office says close to 13 million people have been affected by the super typhoon that blasted its way across the central Philippines. The official death toll stands at 3,974.

    At a briefing in Manila, Orla Fagan, spokeswoman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said with each passing day since the typhoon struck 11 days ago, aid is reaching more people.

    “This is massive," she said, admitting that it has been a mammoth task. "Between 10 and 12 million people have to be assisted to recover from this.  It’s like taking the whole of Belgium and trying to assist.  It really is a colossal effort and everybody is working flat out.”

    Road blocks

    The U.N. cites three major infrastructure concerns that have hampered relief and recovery operations:  the lack of power, poor communication and impassable roads compounded by little access to fuel.  

    According to the latest figures from the Civil Defense office, more than a dozen provinces are still experiencing some form of power outage, with Leyte and Samar in the east remaining completely dark.  The government has to repair - or in some cases replace - some 570 toppled electricity transmission towers and seven substations.

    Cellular service is mostly restored in 13 provinces, but the three eastern-most provinces of Samar, Leyte and Biliran only have about 50 percent or less of service.

    A number of roads have been cleared of debris and national highways are mostly passable for heavy duty trucks.  

    Food aid

    The government’s primary mode of getting food aid to the worst-hit cities and towns of Leyte and Samar has been by land.  But as production of food packages in Manila ramped up at the end of last week, the lack of transportation to deliver them became apparent.

    Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said there are not enough trucks to make the four rotations needed to keep up with the government’s mandate to deliver food packages to 150,000 families daily.  He said the government is switching to shipping containers that will be put on vessels at Manila’s piers.

    “I think the real concern would be the distribution on the other side.  So we have some trucks there now," he explained. "The military is also building up their inventory… so we’ll see.  We’ll see how things go.”

    To further complicate things, the trucks that could make the drive southeast toward the island province of Leyte were stuck for hours waiting to catch one of five ferries that operate the route.  Abaya says more ferries have been added and that the trucks will have another port nearby to use starting Monday.

    Philippine President Benigno Aquino (R) distributes disaster relief items to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan during his visit to Palo, Leyte province, central Philippines Nov. 18, 2013.
    Philippine President Benigno Aquino (R) distributes disaster relief items to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan during his visit to Palo, Leyte province, central Philippines Nov. 18, 2013.
    President Benigno Aquino, whose administration has been criticized for a slow response to the disaster, continues to tour the hardest-hit towns and provinces.  At Palo in Leyte, he handed out relief goods to residents.

    "One is tempted to despair, but the minute I despair, then everybody - it cascades down and everybody gets hampered in their efforts," the president said.

    The country head of the U.N.’s refugee agency in the Philippines said in Manila Monday the issues with aid distribution have still not been resolved.  Bernard Kerblat says agencies are still facing coordination problems with international aid that he says is slow to move out of Cebu province in the center of the country - which was made the clearing house for international assistance.

    • U.S. Marines help load relief supplies onto an MH-60R Seahawk to be airlifted to remote areas of the Philippines in support of Operation Damayan. (U.S. Navy)
    • Philippine citizens board an HC-130 Hercules to be airlifted to safety. (U.S. Navy)
    • Philippine citizens board an HC-130 Hercules as U.S. sailors transport relief supplies in support of Operation Damayan. (U.S. Navy)
    • U.S. military personnel and and Philippine civilians unload relief supplies. (U.S. Navy)
    • U.S. military personnel and Philippine citizens unload relief supplies. (U.S. Navy)
    • A U.S. Hospital Corpsman assists Philippine nurses in treating a patient's head wound at the Immaculate Conception School refugee camp.  (U.S. Navy)
    • An HC-130 Hercules and other military aircraft sit on the tarmac at Guiuan airport waiting to airlift Philippine citizens in support of Operation Damayan. (U.S. Navy)
    • A U.S. Naval Air Crewman assists Philippine citizens in distributing relief supplies in support of Operation Damayan. (U.S. Navy)
    • Philippine citizens gather around a MH-60S Seahawk as it delivers relief supplies. (U.S. Navy)

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Keen from: Philippines
    November 20, 2013 10:37 AM
    In this dark time, I believe everybody's help and cooperation is crucial for the overall success of extending help and uplifting the spirit of the hurricane-hit victims...I hope the Philippine Government and the whole Filipino community as well as the our foreign friends can be the ambassadors of change to these helpless and hopeless people...

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora