By Kate Roux in Bangkok
As the relief truck passes through a remote rural farming community, children stand along the muddy roads waving and shouting, “Red Cross! Red Cross!” It is a Sunday morning in Compostela Valley, and the Red Cross volunteers in the back of the truck are travelling with hundreds of food packages prepared for families who were badly affected by Typhoon Bopha, which swept across the Philippine Island of Mindanao seven weeks ago.
“The municipality informed us that there were many people in this area who hadn’t been helped yet. The needs are so big here in Compostela Valley, this is the first time we are carrying out a relief distribution here,” says Nofrio Alvarico, Philippine Red Cross relief distribution team leader, who is organising the operation on a rural farm.
Supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Philippine Red Cross has been working every day to meet the needs of communities affected by Bopha. Despite the fact that they are working in many areas where no other aid organisations are present, the magnitude of the disaster means that it is a challenge to deliver assistance to all who need it.
Roads have disappeared, bridges collapsed and plantations have been flattened with thousands of rotten coconuts and broken banana trees lying strewn across the landscape. Ongoing rains only worsen conditions on the already muddy access roads and can cause landslides.
This region is rarely exposed to disasters and many people remain traumatized by what they saw when the typhoon made landfall.
“I watched an entire family get swept away by the floods,” says a man from an indigenous tribe who lives in the mountains.
With the roof blown off of her home and her cousin’s home in tatters, another local farmer explains how her family has been humbled by the incident. “We didn’t believe the government when they told us the typhoon was coming. Next time, we will be sure to listen.”
The IFRC has launched a 16.2 million Swiss francs emergency appeal to help the Philippine Red Cross provide humanitarian assistance to 200,000 people.