Appeal launched for international assistance to meet needs following earthquake in Bohol

Published: 24 October 2013 11:35 CET

By Afrhill Rances, in Manila

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a preliminary emergency appeal (pdf) for 5.2 million Swiss Francs (USD 5.77 million, 4.21 million Euros) to help the Philippine Red Cross increase its emergency humanitarian operation to reach 50,000 people following the devastating earthquake that struck the island of Bohol on 15 October.

80-year-old Nestor Yayana, is just one amongst  thousands of people who have been rendered homeless by the earthquake which struck the Philippine island. Home now for Nestor, his children and grandchildren is a makeshift tent, a huge tarpaulin strung over a wooden frame outside the remnants of his destroyed house.  

“I worked so hard for so many years just to complete my house,” he says, staring at the broken walls and collapsed roof of what used to be home. “It fell down in just a few seconds right before my eyes.”

Conditions are now extremely difficult for the family of 12. They cook from a single pot over a rudimentary wood-fuelled clay stove and at night they huddle together in the tent. Sleep is fitful due to the constant aftershocks which jolt them awake.  

“It’s hard to see how I can recover from this,” says Nestor. “My children are busy trying to look after their own families. I have nothing left.”

With over 53,000 houses left damaged or destroyed, the task of rebuilding Bohol will be immense but ten days on from the quake, the priority remains food, water and emergency shelter materials for survivors. More than 380,000 people were displaced from their homes, and 71,000 remain in evacuation centres.

Staff and volunteers from the Red Cross chapters in Bohol and Cebu have been on the ground responding since the quake struck. Leonard Balmonte, a volunteer at Bohol chapter is still shocked at what happened to his hometown. He was in the middle of a Red Cross swimming course when the earthquake happened.

“My students and I just held on to each other until the shaking stopped,” he says, thankful that his own family survived the disaster.

Since the earthquake, Leonard has been working with other volunteers to support the relief effort. Red Cross teams have already provided thousands of survivors with cooked food and food parcels and have carried out rapid assessments in the worst affected areas, including the towns of Loon, Maribojoc and Sagbayan. It is clear that the scale of needs is massive.  

“Our assessments show that most of the damaged houses are beyond repair,” says Bernd Schell, country representative of the IFRC in Philippines. We have prioritised emergency shelter as more than 175,000 people will need some kind of roof over their heads as well as other substantial support in the coming weeks and months.”

“In some of the areas we visited, access is still constrained and markets have shut down due to extensive damage, so it is crucial that we provide items like sleeping mats, hygiene items, tarpaulins and tents to those in most need,” Schell says.

The situation is made more challenging by the fact that it may take days – if not weeks – for essential household items to be available in the local markets at a scale that matches need.  

The IFRC’s appeal also includes distribution of cash or vouchers to enable families to replace lost household assets as well as cash-for-work programmes to support rubble removal. Health needs will be addressed through a community-based disease prevention and health promotion programme and the Philippine Red Cross will work to address psychosocial needs. Volunteer nurses have also been mobilized and are assisting patients in health stations.