On 8 November 8, Typhoon Haiyan tore across the Visayas region of central Philippines. The storm had a devastating impact and was accompanied by a deadly tidal surge that destroyed communities along the eastern coastline of Leyte and Samar.
Over 6,000 people died during the storm and the damage caused has affected a staggering 16 million people across the region. During the past two months, much of the focus for the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has been on meeting the emergency needs of survivors. Markets have been slow to recover in many areas and food has been a priority need. In response, the Philippine Red Cross with support from International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Movement partners has managed to reach over 1 million people with food parcels and cooked meals.
Despite the unsanitary living conditions endured by thousands of homeless families, one of the success stories of the operation so far has been the absence of any significant public health emergency. The Red Cross has helped to prevent major disease outbreaks by providing emergency medical services through Basic Health Care Units as well as producing and distributing more than 3.4 million litres of clean water to over 1.1 million people in Tacloban, Tolosa and Dulag on Leyte Island. Maintaining good health and preventing disease is a core component of the Red Cross health programme and more than 138 Philippine Red Cross volunteers have been trained to work with local communities. More than 7,000 people have been reached with hygiene promotion messages.
One of the most urgent needs amongst survivors is shelter. With over a million homes damaged or destroyed, some 100,000 people remain in evacuation centres while almost 4 million continue to stay with host families, relatives, or have sought alternative temporary accommodation. Many families remain camped out in the remains of their damaged homes. As part of the wider humanitarian response to the typhoon, the IFRC leads the Shelter Cluster – established to provide coordination between humanitarian organisations working in the shelter sector and the Government.
So far, agencies working within the cluster have provided over 324,000 households with emergency shelter materials, including tarpaulins, tents, tools and ropes. The focus now is on supporting families to return to rebuild their homes to a safer and higher standard. Close to 30,000 households have been provided with roofing material, tool kits, cash and technical assistance. The Cluster has also been actively involved in planning around the relocation of families; ensuring that standards are met in the construction of transitional bunkhouses to which some evacuees will be relocated.
As the relief phase evolves into longer term support for recovery, food distributions will be phased out and the distribution of unconditional cash grants will be scaled up. One of the biggest challenges for affected communities has been the impact of the typhoon on their livelihoods. The incomes of over 5 million people have been disrupted or lost, with people dependent on fisheries and agriculture sectors particularly affected. To date, 14,845 families have received cash grants from the Red Cross. These grants are designed to support self-recovery, enabling people to prioritise their own needs.
In the coming days, the IFRC will launch its revised emergency appeal that aims to support the recovery of 100,000 families (500,000 people) over the next 24 months.