After a devastating typhoon affected more than 1 million people in the Philippines, Humanity & Inclusion’s emergency teams are visiting the hardest-hit areas to determine the most urgent needs.
Super Typhoon Rai (locally called Odette) hit the Philippines a record-breaking nine times between Dec. 16 and 18, destroying numerous regions along the way. Over 1 million people have been affected, with more than 400,000 displaced in evacuation centers and another 64,000 people displaced outside of centers. While official numbers remain unclear, many are reporting more than 300 deaths. The storm brought significant flooding and 125mph winds, damaging and destroying roads, bridges, key infrastructure and over 6,000 homes. Hundreds of cities remain without reliable electricity, communication methods or access to basic goods.
Emergency teams deployed
Humanity & Inclusion was among the first actors to arrive in Bohol, one of the most affected areas, where the organization is conducting needs assessments to determine the most appropriate intervention, limitations and outcomes.
“Christmas is coming and thousands of families are homeless. People are feeling helpless and seeking assistance, but very limited assistance is available,” says Alvin Dumduma, Humanity & Inclusion’s project manager in the Philippines. “The hardest thing about my job right now is seeing my countrymen thirst and starve. Two people died in Surigao City because of dehydration; they did not know where to seek or ask for help.”
Overcrowded, under-resourced evacuation centers
Dumduma and his team are meeting with people staying at evacuation centers.
“The scarcity of food is a major problem in the centers,” Dumduma explains. “There are no hot meals and no ready-to-eat food. People have to cook their own food, but there is only one available cooker for all 800 families in one evacuation center.”
In addition to limited food sources, there are concerns for people’s health and safety.
“There are huge protection risks,” Dumduma continues. “Covid-19 has been forgotten. There is no social distancing or preventative measures; they are fitting as many people as possible into one room.
“Women, men and children are all in the same space. So, there are big protection concerns, especially for women and children at night.”
Dumduma says displaced families are eager to return home, but in many cases, it is unsafe to do so.
“People want to leave the centers and go back to their homes,” he adds. “They want to use salvaged materials and fallen trees to make a tent for shelter. This can put them in even more danger, as the materials are not stable, and in the coming days, even more rain is expected.”
Shortage of basic needs
In the most impacted areas, people are forming long lines at gas stations (pictured above), grocery stores and water stations.
“People are becoming increasingly worried that in the coming days, they will no longer have access to basic needs or gasoline, which is essential to power most machinery here,” Dumduma says. “Some water is being sent, but it is not enough considering the huge number of individuals in need. So many provinces have been affected and are calling for support.”
There is much work to be done as disaster response and recovery efforts continue.
“There is a lot of damage. We see children walking barefoot in debris and fallen trees,” Dumduma adds. “People are feeling helpless, but the Humanity & Inclusion team is still motivated and optimistic. We need to stay positive. People are smiling again when they see us arrive. Talking and listening to the affected community right now is a simple way to let them know we are here for them.”