Support needed as Philippine Red Cross Society steps up typhoon relief operations

Published: 7 October 2011 15:14 CET

By Afrhill Rances in Manila

Ten days after typhoon Nesat and Nalgae hit the northern Philippines; the country’s national Red Cross society continues to intensify its response. The back-to-back typhoons brought heavy rains that caused massive flooding in Central and Northern Luzon turning some areas into inland seas and affecting close to four million people.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a preliminary emergency appeal for 3.5 million Swiss francs (USD 3.9 million) to help Philippine Red Cross (PRC) deliver immediate assistance to 50,000 families – over 250,000 people.

The two powerful storms resulted in 90 deaths, and 24 people are still missing.  In all, four million people have been affected, mostly in the Central Luzon and Cagayan Valley regions. Strong winds and massive flooding caused damage to some 66,000 houses, swept away household items and assets, and damaged livelihoods.

“The massive flooding has brought a corresponding flood of needs which PRC cannot meet without the support of its sister societies and partners,” says Selvaratnam Sinnadurai, the IFRC’s country representative for Philippines. “Just as they responded swiftly to save lives at the peak of the typhoons, they need support to act quickly in addressing the urgent needs of survivors.”

So far, the PRC has provided some relief, drawing largely on a 280,000 Swiss francs (USD 306,933) from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) as well as individual and corporate domestic supporters.

“These funds have enabled PRC to deliver relief to the most vulnerable, but the assistance  so far is a drop in the ocean,” Selvaratnam Sinnadurai says. “It is vital we provide more funding support because after meeting immediate needs such as food, we need to help the hardest-hit people to restore their normal lives in the community.”

Teams surveying the extent of damage in Central Luzon and Cagayan Valley are reporting that tens of thousands have lost their homes, hundreds of thousands are still in evacuation centres and the livelihoods of millions have been severely affected. Authorities have estimated that the total cost of damage from the twin disasters is beyond 260 million Swiss francs, surpassing that caused by Typhoon Ketsana in 2009.

Funds slow to come

The Red Cross is aiming to provide affected communities not only with relief but also construction materials to rebuild their homes and restore their livelihoods. However, funds are slow to come.

“This situation limits our ability to provide urgent support to people whose coping mechanisms have been severely eroded,” says Selvaratnam Sinnadurai. “We call on our partners to step in, with funds, and help resolve the situation where communities have been dealt a double blow, just two years after they faced similar predicament from typhoons Ketsana and Parma.” 

In the wake of the storms, National Society volunteers and staff rescued 2,000 people trapped on rooftops. They have also provided emergency food rations to 17,000 families and have distributed supplies such as blankets, jerrycans and sleeping mats to more than 400 families. Truckloads of additional food rations for 3,000 families and relief for 6,000 families left Manila yesterday for affected areas.