Expanding the Emergency Response to Typhoon Haiyan


More than two weeks have passed since Typhoon Haiyan lashed out at the Philippines. Handicap International deployed an emergency response team of around 15 expatriates, sent to reinforce the teams already working in the country.

  • Several tens of tons of freight, including emergency kits and drinking water filter pumps, have reached the country.
  • From now on, Handicap International’s top priorities are to facilitate access to the areas which are still isolated (logistics platform), to prevent the onset of disabilities (health care for the injured) and to meet people’s basic needs (distributions).
  • Handicap International is also preparing a second intervention phase, aimed at helping the population begin reconstruction.

More than 13 million people affected
The typhoon swept across part of the Philippines on Nov. 8. The consequences are immeasurable. According to the United Nations, more than 13.2 million people have been affected in a country with 92 million inhabitants. Nine regions have been severely affected, with 4.4 million inhabitants displaced, and more than 1 million homes damaged or entirely destroyed. “We have been able to access the region of Tacloban where certain neighborhoods have been abandoned as the survivors have sought refuge elsewhere, in villages which are still intact. The typhoon swept across a large swathe of land over which everything has been devastated, the damage is extensive,” recounts Brice Blondel from Handicap International.

Emergency kits dispatched
As soon as the disaster occurred, Handicap International sent out contingency supplies it had stocked in Dubai and Lyon. These emergency kits contain enough tents, blankets, cooking equipment etc. to meet the essential needs of 750 families (around 4,400 people) who have lost everything. The organization subsequently sent four Disability and Vulnerability Focal Points kits, which allow teams to treat people for minor injuries and to refer the most vulnerable people to the appropriate services.

At the same time, the charity activated its London, UK-stores, sending 50 drinking water filter pumps to each filter up to 300 liters of water an hour.

Logistics platform
With extensive experience in logistics, Handicap International is currently preparing to deploy a logistics platform in the Leyte sector, to supply humanitarian aid to the most isolated zones.  

“When conventional transport systems are down, it is vital that alternative, flexible and adaptable solutions, as well as logistics services are put into place. Our platform will allow all the NGOs working in affected areas to ensure the humanitarian aid reaches their beneficiaries,” explains Hélène Robin, Handicap International’s Head of Emergency Response for the Philippines. “This will strengthen other NGOs' responses, notably by ensuring distributions to isolated populations.” 

Preventing disabilities
The emergency response teams were able to visit several hospitals in order to identify the emergency rehabilitation needs among the injured. It is vital, that in the wake of the disaster, people with injuries are provided with care immediately, in order to limit the onset of long-term disabilities.

In addition to rehabilitation care, the association could rapidly put into place distributions of walking aids to help with the mobility of people with injuries or disabilities, who have lost everything in the disaster.

Preparation for the second phase
The initial emergency phase must be rapidly followed by a post-emergency phase to help families rebuild. Handicap International is therefore preparing for this essential phase, which will involve cash for work[2] schemes for the clean-up (although the authorities have cleared and cleaned up the main routes, entire areas of the country are still covered in debris). The association could also manage the reconstruction of shelters, either directly, or again through cash for work schemes.

Back up from a dedicated emergency team
In normal circumstances, Handicap International’s Philippines team includes just over 70 employees. In the first few days following the typhoon, back up for these teams arrived in the form of emergency response specialists--people who are used to working in crises, and accustomed to being deployed on a few days' notice to help the most vulnerable and fragile populations. This back up includes logisticians to work on the supply of aid, physiotherapists to provide care for the injured and an accessibility specialist whose valuable expertise is being used to help ensure people with disabilities are not excluded from accessing humanitarian aid. 


A zone frequently affected by natural disasters
With more than 7,000 islands, the Philippine archipelago is one of the countries most exposed to natural disasters. The main identified risks are typhoons and their consequences (landslides, flooding, destruction of homes etc.), earthquakes, and even volcanic eruptions. Over the last 20 years, natural disasters have resulted in more than 31,000 deaths.

As well as the material and human damage caused by these disasters, they also negatively impact on the economic circumstances of the poorest families. This impact is particularly severe in a country where 40% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

Extensive experience of emergency response in the Philippines
In the last ten years alone, Handicap International has responded to nine different emergency situations in the Philippines. In 2003, the association notably offered assistance to displaced persons in Pikit, in the Cotabato province, in wake of the renewed conflict in Mindanao. It also provided assistance in repatriating refugees from Malaysia. In 2004, it provided training for humanitarian workers on including the needs of people with disabilities in their emergency programs, in Mindanao. In 2004 -2005, Handicap International assisted the victims of landslides in the Quezon province, and in 2005 provided assistance to vulnerable persons following the typhoon in Quezon. In 2006, support was provided to the most vulnerable victims of mudslides in the Leyte province. In 2006 -2007, the association deployed teams to help the victims of super typhoon Durian. In 2009 -2010, it assisted the victims of typhoons Ketsana, Parma and Santi in Angono, Tanay and San Mateo. In 2001-2012, an emergency response was deployed following tropical storm Washi. This year, the teams have already provided an emergency response to typhoon Bopha. 





[1] OCHA – 11/19/2013

[2] Cash for work schemes allow disaster victims to get involved in reconstruction in exchange for remuneration, this also allows them to meet their own needs and gives a boost to the local economy, heavily impacted by the disaster.