More than 10,000 people are reported to have died in the Philippines following the passage of Typhoon Haiyan. With a presence in the Philippines for the past 28 years, Handicap International is preparing to launch an emergency relief effort in the worst affected areas.
Less than 36 hours after the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, initial reports suggest the storm has caused catastrophic damage. According to the authorities, more than 10,000 people are thought to have died. However, these reports remain impossible to confirm since many islands are still cut off and unable to communicate with the rest of the world.
“The news that is getting through is very bad,” said Edith van Wijngaarden, Handicap International’s field program director in the Philippines, after attending a humanitarian coordination meeting. “The airport in Tacloban, in the center of the country, has been severely affected. Very few planes have been able to land. Access to the affected areas remains haphazard. A team of government and United Nations officials, which inspected the damage by helicopter, says the devastation is worse than in Bandah Aceh, Indonesia, following the tsunami triggered by the earthquake of Dec. 26, 2004. Very little humanitarian aid is getting through to the affected areas.
“The town has no water, electricity or food. According to humanitarian workers in Tacloban, looting and fighting have broken out as people attempt to access the dwindling supplies of food and water. And this is only in Tacloban. No news has been received from the first small island hit by the storm. The typhoon is reported to have had a devastating effect on Northern Cebu, Leyte, Northern Palawan and small neighboring islands. Worse still, another typhoon is expected to hit the country within five days. I can’t send my team into the area for the time being, because it’s impossible to get through. But we’re ready to intervene at a moment’s notice because this is a huge natural disaster and we can’t leave the victims without aid.
"I’m particularly worried about the most vulnerable individuals. In this kind of situation, when nothing is left standing and the local infrastructure has been destroyed, people with disabilities, older people and children are even more vulnerable than before. We absolutely have to supply them with relief.”
Present in the Philippines since 1985, Handicap International operates development and risk reduction programs in several areas of the country. Risk reduction operations lessen the impact of natural disasters by implementing contingency plans and evacuation procedures. Handicap International has previously deployed emergency teams in the Philippines on several occasions following major storms.