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UN Relief Chief: Much More Needed for Philippines

United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos (C), speaks to typhoon survivors at the airport in Tacloban, central Philippines, Nov. 13, 2013.
The senior United Nations relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, said that two weeks after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, two-and-a-half million people have been reached with basic food assistance, and clean water is available to everyone in Tacloban City. Amos, however, also said much more needs to be done.

Amos met with reporters after returning to New York from her second trip to the Philippines since the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. She said 72 local and 59 foreign medical teams are now providing emergency treatment in the affected areas, and that a vaccination campaign to immunize half a million children under five against measles and polio will begin on Monday.

“But much more needs to be done. Food, clean water and shelter remain the top priorities. Vast numbers of vulnerable people are still exposed to bad weather and need basic shelter and they are worried that the typhoon season has not yet ended,” she said.

Amos said families that have lost their homes will need substantial longer term support from the international community. She added that 40 percent of her original appeal for $301 million for the Philippines has been funded so far. That goal has been raised to $348 million and she said she expects it will increase again in the weeks ahead.

The Philippine government has faced some criticism for the pace of its response to the disaster, but the U.N. relief official said the Philippines has one of the best disaster management systems in the world.

“But the sheer scale of this typhoon and the storm surge which accompanied it in some places would have tested any country. The logistical challenges have been enormous, with many roads blocked and airports unusable in the first few days,” she said.

Amos said that despite forecasts of the approaching typhoon and its storm surge, some Filipinos did not understand the significance of the warning and might have been more prepared if the word “tsunami” had been used, even though the surge was not caused by an earthquake or volcano.