Typhoon Relief Gaining Momentum, Officials Say

A U.S. military crew member surveys a landing zone in Palo city in Leyte for delivery of aid from his Navy helicopter.
A U.S. military crew member surveys a landing zone in Palo city in Leyte for delivery of aid from his Navy helicopter.

By Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
20 November 2013

Humanitarian efforts to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan are gaining momentum with growing international contributions and strong engagement by the Philippines government, according to a senior U.S. disaster assistance official.

The United States has provided more than $37 million for relief while international donors have committed approximately $193 million, Jeremy Konyndyk testified November 19 before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Konyndyk leads the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

“Every day, aid efforts gather pace with the systems getting through to more people,” confirmed United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Valerie Amos.

FOOD

Konyndyk said a cash contribution from USAID allowed the World Food Programme (WFP) to immediately purchase rice and canned food in local markets to meet the urgent nutritional needs of people affected by the typhoon. That food was able to reach families faster than if the United States had airlifted food to the devastated areas, he said.

USAID funds also allowed WFP to purchase high-energy biscuits for storm victims. In a November 19 statement, Amos said that, to date, donor-funded food aid distributed by the Philippines government has reached more than 1.1 million people.

WATER

Konyndyk said USAID is helping the Philippine Local Water Utilities Administration conduct water facility damage assessments in the provinces of Aklan, Cebu, Iloilo, Leyte, Negros, Occidental and Samar. In addition, USAID partners are providing generators for a water pumping facility and chlorine tablets and water containers to households for treating water.

A survivor of Typhoon Haiyan plays basketball on a damaged court in a park in Tacloban, Leyte. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by the storm.

HEALTHThe Philippines military evacuated severely injured people from Tacloban city, in Leyte, within 48 hours of the storm making landfall. The country’s government set up several field hospitals and is identifying where to set up more, Konyndyk said.

With additional health care posts set up by relief groups that are providing medical supplies, medicines and medical staff, Konyndyk said the United Nations health coordinator and the Philippines health department both have reported that the health needs of the affected populations are being met and that additional relief should be directed to other needs.

Amos said an estimated 3.2 million women and 4.6 million children need psychosocial support and protection against violence, trafficking and exploitation. Pregnant women and other vulnerable groups also need special care, she said. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia-Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel told the subcommittee that the United States is working with the Philippines government to respond quickly to security concerns.

Konyndyk stressed that USAID will continue to coordinate medium- and long-term recovery and rehabilitation efforts with the United Nations, international donors and the Philippines government. At the same time, he said, existing USAID programs in the country will be used to facilitate those efforts.

Konyndyk praised “the generosity of the American people” and Filipino Americans in particular for contributing to relief efforts.

Marciel explained that the U.S. Embassy in Manila is channeling donations from the American business community in the Philippines to where they can be most effective. “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Philippines. … I am convinced that our joint work to help the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan will deepen the already robust U.S.-Philippine partnership,” he said.

People who wish to contribute or would like more information can go to USAID’s website.