Starving ‘Pablo’ survivors mob food, relief trucks
NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley—Desperate and starving residents on Tuesday clambered onto trucks distributing food and used clothing as local and international groups continued to deliver much-needed relief goods to villages hit by Typhoon “Pablo” last week.
In the worst-hit village of Andap, bedlam broke loose as people mobbed civilian volunteers from General Santos City who came in a truck with cups of porridge and used clothes.
They would not form an orderly, single line, and many complained of “repeaters” who appeared several times. “Some came several times, unmindful that there were more people at the back,” said Diano Nestor, 33.
In Manila, international relief and humanitarian organizations have begun responding to the United Nations’ appeal for global aid to millions of Filipinos affected by the typhoon.
The Rome-based UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it would be raising $21.6 million (about P885 million) to provide life-saving food and nutrition assistance, as well as logistics support for 400,000 people in the worst-hit areas of Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, provinces in the Caraga region, and Lanao del Sur.
The WFP assistance will include specialized nutritious foods to 80,000 children and 60,000 pregnant and nursing mothers.
On Monday, the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said $65 million (about P2.6 billion) in humanitarian assistance was needed to reach 481,000 of the most affected people.
South Korea aid
South Korea is donating $200,000 (P8.19 million) in relief aid, which will be coursed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), its embassy in Taguig City said in a statement.
“The government and the people of the Republic of Korea extend their deepest sympathies and support to the bereaved families and victims of Typhoon Pablo,” it said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had sent food kits and relief items for 21,000 people in Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Surigao del Sur.
“With bridges destroyed and roads impassable along the most direct coastal road, other means and routes have been found to bring these life-saving goods to the people. These supplies will be distributed in the coming days, while several hundred more tons of food and thousands of emergency kits are already on its way,” the ICRC said in a statement issued by its Manila office.
Long wait for aid
As authorities tried to reach isolated areas by air, typhoon victims from far-flung areas could no longer wait for aid to reach them.
George Palma, 30, and his wife, Catherine, 37, trekked more than three kilometers from Sitio (sub-village) Boston before daybreak on Tuesday to reach Andap and get the relief goods.
“We have to leave early and return home as soon as possible because we still have to cross a river,” Palma told the Inquirer. “We’ve been doing this for four days already. We have to come down here ourselves, or else we will starve if we wait for relief goods to reach our sitio.”
Relief goods that reached Andap days after the disaster have somehow eased the trauma and suffering they endured, said Modena Claro, 23, who has a 3-year-old daughter and an 8-month-old son.
“We are flooded with relief goods. Our problem now is how to build new homes,” she said, pointing to their hut crushed by fallen coconut trees.
“We are thankful. This lightens our burden,” she said as she sipped a cup of porridge given by a young nephew.
Health authorities are taking measures to contain a possible outbreak of disease as thousands of people displaced by the typhoon crowded in sweltering evacuation centers in Compostela Valley, said Raul Basañes, provincial health officer.
Marlon Esperanza, municipal information officer, said the surroundings of the evacuation centers were being disinfected and the evacuees were advised to boil their drinking water after four cases of diarrhea were reported.
“What we don’t want to happen is an outbreak,” Esperanza said.
The Naval Forces in Eastern Mindanao (NFEM), which is based in Davao City, said it had dispatched desalinator equipment to Davao Oriental, according to Lt. (j.g.) Ronaldo Soriano, acting NFEM public affairs officer. The equipment can produce 25 gallons of potable water in a minute for the use of the victims there, he said.
Aside from food and water, the evacuees need blankets, mats and kitchen utensils, as well as slippers, he said.
He urged donors to coordinate with local authorities before bringing their relief goods to the affected communities.
“We discourage donors from going there themselves because they could be get mobbed by desperate residents. We could tap the Army and the police to accompany them for crowd control and avoid confusion and chaos,” said the municipal information officer.
In Davao Oriental, relief goods continued to arrive by land through Surigao del Sur and by sea on board a Navy ship from Mati City. Trucks loaded with relief goods were also mobbed.
At least 12,000 packs of rice, canned goods and noodles were being sent daily to Baganga town in Davao Oriental.
But aid could not come sooner to Mandaya natives and other indigenous communities in the uphill areas of Davao Oriental.
“Their food supply is fast dwindling, their roads blocked by fallen trees and rocks, it will not be long when everyone in the communities will go hungry,” Manggob Masinaring, a Mandaya working with the indigenous people’s group Sildap, warned.
Masinaring, who had visited the villages of Bankawan, Calinogan and Danawan in Caraga town, said the situation of the Mansaka, Mandaya, Maguangan and Dibabawon communities had been worsened by the fact that “the streams, which are their only source of water, are already too murky for drinking.”
Food aid has come in trickles with only a few humanitarian groups managing to reach them in the past days, he said.
On Sunday, international humanitarian groups, led by the United Nations, civil society and bilateral organizations met with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Davao City to ensure that typhoon-hit areas would be sufficiently covered and none would be left alone or “be overserved,” Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said.
Earlier, UN resident humanitarian coordinator in the Philippines Luiza Carvalho warned groups not to “patronize” the people’s needs and underestimate the Filipino’s resilient spirit.
She said she had been to New Bataan but saw people building their houses right in the area where they used to be and using only indigenous materials.
“Do not patronize, or underestimate the people’s capacity to spring back because we might have better chances here of doing a beautiful job of rebuilding the communities,” Carvalho said.
The ICRC office in Manila said it was stepping up relief operations, sending more food and emergency items, such as hygiene products and cooking stocks from its warehouses.
Three large aircraft carrying an additional 280 tons of supplies from its emergency stock in Kuala Lumpur have been dispatched, it said.
As of Monday, the WFP said it had already delivered rice and high-energy biscuits to 142,500 people and ready-to-eat supplementary foods for 26,000 children. Thirty-eight trucks have also been deployed to help local government units deliver relief goods.
The DSWD earlier requested the UN agency’s support in setting up two hubs in Davao Oriental and Caraga to help speed up the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
80-95 percent destroyed
According to the ICRC, 80-95 percent of the municipalities of Baganga, Cateel and Boston in Davao Oriental have been destroyed. The area has a combined population of roughly 141,000.
“There’s nothing left in some places. We tried to find evacuation centers, but many of them had collapsed. Some people are just living by the roadside. They need everything,” the ICRC quoted an emergency team member, Wilson Mondal, as saying.
“The destruction is so severe that almost no coconut trees are still standing. Many people have seen their entire livelihood wiped out in this one event. They will need assistance for a long time to come,” he added.
In Tagum City, Mayor Rey Uy on Tuesay ordered the city budget office to release
P3 million for the repair of the victims’ houses. With reports from Germelina Lacorte, Allan Nawal and Frinston Lim, Inquirer Mindanao; and Jerry E. Esplanada in Manila
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