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International Medical Corps Team on the Ground in the Philippines, Responding to Typhoon Haiyan

by Margaret Aguirre, Director of Global Communications | International Medical Corps - USA
Sunday, 10 November 2013 18:29 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

November 10, 2013 - Los Angeles, Calif. - International Medical Corps has a team on the ground in the Philippines following Super Typhoon Haiyan, which has left widespread devestation, affecting 4.3 million people, including nearly 620,000 who fled their homes. Authorities estimate the death toll from the typhoon, one of the most powerful on record, could exceed 10,000 in the provincial capital of Tacloban alone. Reports still coming in from neighboring islands indicate the death toll may rise by hundreds, if not thousands more, though it will be days before the full extent of the storm's impact can be assessed.

Noel Miranda, who previously led an International Medical Corps pandemic preparedness initiative in Asia and Africa, will lead the organization's Emergency Response Team in the Philippines. Food, water and medicines are among the greatest needs. Ensuring basic water, sanitation and hygiene and infection control are priorities. "Now is the stage of impact mitigation to save lives - to keep those already healthy, healthy, and to attend to people in distress. Both medical and social interventions are needed," says Miranda. "Physical reconstruction of infrastructures and homes is huge and expected to be a difficult task. There is still a long journey ahead for relief and recovery."

By Sunday morning, it was clear Haiyan, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, brought widespread destruction to at least 6 of the archipelago's more than 7,000 islands, with Leyte, neighboring Samar Island, and the northern part of Cebu appearing to be the hardest hit. The massive storm knocked out power and communications, destroyed hospitals and health facilities, and disrupted supply chains and basic essential services in many areas. Access remains a key barrier to providing humanitarian support, with local airports out of operation, and key roads impassable.

The super typhoon made landfall on the eastern seaboard of the Philippine archipelago on Friday and quickly roared across its central islands, packing wind gusts of 170 mph and a storm surge that caused sea waters to rise 20 feet. Many areas in the path of the storm are still recovering from a recent 7.2 earthquake that hit the region on October 15, increasing the risk of casualties and worsening potential destruction. The recent earthquake had already stretched national emergency response teams, leaving the potential for a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

International Medical Corps has been a first-responder to numerous natural disasters in southeast Asia, including Cyclone Phailin in India in October, the tsunami in Japan two years ago, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps' mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster, and disease, by delivering vital health care services and sustainable development projects that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning hardest-hit populations to self-reliance. For more information visit: www.InternationalMedicalCorps.org. Also see us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.