Sanitation is a vital part in the response to Typhoon Haiyan

Publié: 19 novembre 2013 10:17 CET

Typhoon Haiyan has affected more than 10 million people in the Philippines, leaving. hundreds of thousands of people displaced, and in urgent need of food, safe water, and medical care.

While access to water is a fundamental need in the aftermath of disaster, in many of the affected areas, responding to the sanitation requirements is equally important.  So often the neglected twin of water provision – which generally receives more attention and funding – effective sanitation is vital.

In the worst hit city of Tacloban, aid has begun to arrive as humanitarian aid pipelines are established from distribution centres. To ensure the aid is delivered to those who need it most, hundreds of Philippine Red Cross volunteers, including many affected by the typhoon themselves, are assisting with the distribution of supplies.

Volunteers are also providing support to other urgent needs, such as setting up first aid posts and establishing water distribution points across the region, including one next to the last remaining functional hospital in Tacloban. Emergency water supplies remain necessary as the water distribution network remains intermittent in the town. Planning is also underway to address the communities beyond the city’s borders.

The impact of sanitation on human health and dignity cannot be overstated. Initial reports from the areas hit by the typhoon indicate heavy damage to sanitation infrastructure, particularly at the household level, where thousands of people have been left without any toilet facilities. Even the sanitation infrastructure that has survived the storm will quickly be overwhelmed by increased use if action is not taken to improve access.

To support the efforts of the Philippine Red Cross, two Mass-Sanitation Emergency Response Units have been deployed to the affected area.  These units include highly trained personnel with specialized equipment that are each capable of delivering sanitation and hygiene promotion to up to 20,000 people. Assessment teams are on the ground identifying the most vulnerable areas of operation and the specific needs of those affected.

In addition to toilet construction, it’s also critical in the acute emergency phase to ensure that those toilets are properly used and kept clean. This means close engagement with the population during the design and planning phase and hygiene promotion campaigns. The key element in this work is Red Cross volunteers.

“Red Cross volunteers play a crucial role as health promoters. They are the link between health systems and communities – before, during and after disasters,” says Gwendolyn Pang, Secretary General, Philippine Red Cross. “Without volunteers, it would not be possible to deliver essential services or reach universal access to water and sanitation services.”

The Philippine Red Cross with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will be addressing the sanitation needs of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan over the coming weeks, months, and years. Globally, Red Cross Red Crescent supports on average 1.8 million people annually with water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion activities in emergency and a further 1.5 million in the recovery and developmental context.

 Find out more at

Water and sanitation at IFRC