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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.