600k survivors have yet to get aid
Some 600,000 survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” have yet to receive assistance from the World Food Program (WFP), the UN agency said on Tuesday, 11 days after the disaster struck.
Ertharin Cousin, the WFP’s executive director, told journalists in Manila that the agency had so far delivered emergency supplies of rice and high-energy biscuits to 1.9 million people.
She said an initial assessment of areas ravaged by Yolanda had estimated that 2.5 million survivors were in need of food.
“There are significant numbers of people still that we have yet to reach,” Cousin said.
“What we work to do is to reach those who don’t have other means of accessing food and that number will continue to reduce as we move forward.”
Cousin said “geographical challenges,” including choked roads and accessing remote islands, had made reaching everyone affected difficult.
Thousands of people died when Yolanda—packing some of the strongest winds ever recorded—smashed into central Philippines on Nov. 8, generating tsunami-like waves that flattened entire communities and left up to 4 million people displaced.
The WFP official said her estimate of 2.5 million survivors was a “conservative” estimate.
“We are challenged but not overwhelmed and we will continue to perform the work necessary to meet the needs of the Philippine community,” Cousin said.
“The work goes on and we won’t stop until everyone receives food assistance.”
Aid reaches Mercedes, Salcedo
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had started reaching remote areas in Samar province—particularly Guiuan, Mercedes and Salcedo.
Pascal Mauchle, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines, said that as of Tuesday, the aid group had provided food to more than 50,000 people. “This is only the start,” he said.
Mauchle said the ICRC planned to reach Homonhon and Suluan—two small isolated islands off Guiuan—by boat to serve nearly 9,000 people.
Mauchle described Guiuan, where nearly 48,000 people lived before Yolanda, as among the areas in the Visayas hardest hit by Yolanda and where “most structures were massively damaged and the population was cut off from vital supplies.”
The Japanese government, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), said it recently turned over relief items worth 60 million yen to people in the towns of Basey and Guiuan in Samar; Palo, Tanauan, San Isidro, Ormoc, and Tacloban City in Leyte province.
The relief items include 2,000 sleeping mats, 620 plastic sheets, 500 tents, 20 generators, 20 power cord reels, 20 water purifiers and 69,980 bottles of water, a Jica statement said.
“We are determined to help the typhoon victims get back on their feet,” said Takahiro Sasaki, Jica chief representative in the Philippines.
Thai rice, doctors
More aid is coming. Thailand has donated 5,000 tons of rice from government stocks to the Philippines and is considering selling more rice to Manila.
“The 5,000 tons of rice will be shipped to Manila this week with medical suppliers and doctors,” said Thai government spokesperson Teerat Ratanasevi.
He said Thailand was considering selling rice to the Philippines which has said it will import up to 500,000 tons to replenish dwindled stocks after being hit by the supertyphoon.
In Vatican City, Pope Francis will appeal for donations for the Philippines as he winds up the Vatican’s “Year of Faith” in a Saint Peter’s Square ceremony on Sunday.
“The Pope will ask everyone from cardinals to the simple faithful” to donate aid money for the Philippines, Archbishop Rino Fisichella said at a news conference on Monday.
The weekend ceremony, expected to attract tens of thousands of people, will feature the first-ever public display of remains believed to be those of Saint Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ who is considered to be the first pope and founder of the Catholic Church.
In Manila, the Aquino administration is arranging a pledging session for foreign development institutions interested in formalizing commitments to extend cheap loans to the country to fund reconstruction projects.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the pledging session would be held before the end of the year.
“We want to take advantage of the show of support and concern by the international community,” Abad told reporters on the sidelines of a Senate hearing on the proposed national budget for 2014.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said foreign institutions expected to participate in the pledging session included those from the United States, Japan and Australia.
Following the devastation by Yolanda, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank each offered $500 million worth of official development assistance to the Philippines to help fund rehabilitation and reconstruction activities.
Purisima said other foreign lending institutions were expected to follow suit.
“The expression of support from the international community has been overwhelming, and so we like to hold this session [to translate the support into financial support],” Purisima told reporters in the Senate.
According to government estimates, the Philippine economy will post a slower growth rate ranging between 6.5 and 7 percent this year because of the impact of the typhoon. Before the disaster, the government was expecting the economy to grow by 7.3 percent this year.
The latest growth forecast, however, was still well within the government’s official target of 6 to 7 percent.
Estimates pointed to more than P9 billion worth of damage to the agriculture sector alone. A government-reconstruction plan that is expected to be released within two weeks will come up with an estimate of the damage to other sectors, including public infrastructure.
The hardest-hit regions were Central, Eastern and Western Visayas, which together account for 12.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and 20 percent of the Philippine population.—Reports from wires and Michelle V. Remo
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