Takoma Park, Maryland — Handicap International is today sending a team of emergency specialists to the Philippines in response to the disaster now gripping the country. The team will complement the work already being done by the organization’s teams in the field. The specialists will case-manage the most vulnerable individuals, such as people with disabilities, older people and children, who are particularly at risk in this type of disaster.
“Like most other NGOs, we have unfortunately not yet been able to visit the worst affected areas,” explains Edith van Wijngaarden, Handicap International’s Field Program Director in the Philippines. “Three days after the disaster, only military flights are landing in Tacloban, a town in the center of the country, and one of the worst hit by the storm. However, it’s important that Handicap International’s emergency team accesses the area as soon as possible to make sure highly vulnerable individuals are not left behind.”
Under these kinds of circumstances, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups are at even greater risk than before. As part of its emergency response, the organization will identify vulnerable individuals, help them access humanitarian aid, meet their specific needs (crutches, wheelchairs, etc.) and help provide rehabilitation care for people with disabilities and the injured.
Footage and reports from the hardest hit provinces show absolute devastation and extreme suffering in the aftermath of this unprecedented typhoon. “Persons with disabilities and new injuries, children and the elderly, in particular, face grave risks,” says Elizabeth MacNairn, director of Handicap International US. “We must work quickly to ensure that local populations, including these extremely vulnerable groups, have access to basic needs such as water, food and shelter as well as specific care. Time is not working in our favor and every hour counts. We urge you to support our work in the Philippines.”
Present in the Philippines since 1985, Handicap International operates development and risk reduction programs in several areas of the country. The contingency plans and evacuation procedures implemented as part of risk reduction operations help alleviate the impact of natural disasters. Handicap International has deployed emergency teams during previous typhoons in the Philippines and benefits from extensive experience in the field.