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Countless Serve Tirelessly in the Philippines to Meet Urgent Needs

Ginny McCabe | ReligionToday.com Contributor | Friday, November 22, 2013
Countless Serve Tirelessly in the Philippines to Meet Urgent Needs

Countless Serve Tirelessly in the Philippines to Meet Urgent Needs

The immediate action of relief aid workers has been a life-saving force for many that were caught in the path of Typhoon Haiyan just over a week ago. With winds close to 200 mph, and some gusts even higher, the hard-hitting, Category 5 storm swept across the Central Philippines and left people in chaos and total devastation. Although the country is prone to such storms, averaging about 20 national disasters per year, officials said that this is one of the most powerful storms to be recorded.

The raging waters with up to 19-ft. waves left behind washed-out roads and destroyed power lines, leaving much of population with no way to communicate. With the widespread flooding, there is mass debris, leveled homes and loss of life. The typhoon claimed the lives of around 4,460 people, according to the United Nations. An estimated four million people have been displaced.

Left with no infrastructure, there is no electricity, running water or fuel. The force of the typhoon was about 50 miles wide and 12.9 million people were reportedly affected. Thousands are still being evacuated. For survivors, food, clean water, shelter and medical care are among their most dire needs.

Samaritan's Purse staff member Aaron Ashoff is leading the organization's response efforts in Tacloban. He is on the ground in Tacloban City, a town of about 250,000 people.

“It took the brunt of the typhoon when it hit land. Over the past 10 to 12 days, tens of thousands have been evacuated. There is probably about 90 percent destruction here in Tacloban City. By that, I mean that 90 percent of homes and buildings are either partially or totally destroyed. It’s catastrophic destruction,” Ashoff said.

Disaster response specialists from Samaritan's Purse were immediately in place, working with local officials to establish a field hospital, to set up water access points, and to coordinate distributions of shelter materials.

“Samaritan's Purse is augmenting the main hospital of Palo city. We have biomedical and medical experts here with a staff of about 10 doctors and nurses. They’ve been working for a couple days, staffing the hospital, for victims of the typhoon as well as to address the recurrent illnesses of people in the city. All of Samaritan's Purse medical and equipment supplies arrived at the hospital today,” Ashoff said on Wednesday.

Shelter is another tremendous need in the affected cities. He said 7,000 shelters also arrived on Wednesday. Over the next few days, Samaritan's Purse will be working with local authorities to distribute them. Each shelter is for a family of five and 35,000 people will be provided with shelter. In other nearby communities, water filtration systems are being installed, which pump over 1,000 gallons of clean water per hour.

Barry Hall, Samaritan's Purse response manager who is coordinating relief efforts in the Philippines from the ministry's headquarters in Boone, NC said 110 tons of relief supplies that were airlifted from Charlotte, N.C., arrived in Cebu City on Sunday. The 3.6 million square feet of plastic sheeting, multiple community water filtration systems, medical supplies, mosquito nets, and blankets were in route to Tacloban earlier in the week. Right away, workers distributed over 5,000 food parcels. Close to 40 team members are on the ground.

“With this storm, the needs are so tremendous. The path of destruction and death is mind-boggling,” Hall said.

Samaritan’s Purse is working with local ministry partners and officials to get the supplies to those in need, while continuing to partner with Filipino churches to distribute food and hygiene kits to storm survivors on Cebu and Bantayan Islands. They are serving the affected areas to bring clean water, shelter, and health care, and to offer hope.

“Pray for the people here. They literally have lost everything. Just yesterday, I heard a quote that stuck out, ‘There’s no rich and there’s no poor, it’s all the same. Everybody lost it all.’ A lot of people lost family members, their homes and possessions. They are starting over again. Pray that God would supply all of their needs. Pray for the relief effort, that it would be successful and many would be helped,” Ashoff said.

According to Philip Burn, divisional communications director, Texas Divisional Headquarters, teams of Salvation Army volunteers are providing life-saving items such as bottled water, biscuits (cookies), bananas and bread for people who have been evacuated to Cebu and Manila from Tacloban. Initially, food and water packages are being provided to about 3,500 people.

“In the immediate response, obviously, communication, transport and logistics have been a major challenge,” Burn said.

In addition to physical help, teams are comforting people, he said, as The Salvation Army seeks to go beyond providing for people's physical needs – the spiritual, caring element is a vital part of helping those who are distressed and traumatized.

“The Salvation Army, being a church organization has gone beyond the physical need, by spending time to talk and counseling those who have been affected by this disaster,” Burn said.

Salvation Army emergency personnel in the typhoon-hit city of Tacloban, The Philippines, and other devastated areas in the Visayas Islands are seeing signs of hope emerge as relief goods, medicines and other aid reach the people. The Salvation Army is continuing to provide essentials, and is working in conjunction with local authorities and other relief aid agencies.

World Vision staff members echoed that communities hardest hit by the typhoon were hampered by substantial challenges. Airports were closed, roads were blocked and waterways were clogged with debris. Motorcycles were some of the only means of transportation that would provide a way through.

Immediately, World Vision began distributing life-saving relief supplies to storm-affected communities, including food, hygiene kits, blankets and emergency shelter supplies.

Chris Palusky, who heads up World Vision’s, U.S. disaster response efforts, said that in addition to the 600 staff already in the country, the organization flew in an additional 40 staff members to help with the emergency.

“The Philippines have been hit hard this year, especially over the past six months,” Palusky said.

He said the organization’s current program is aimed to help 400,000 people. With the distribution over the past few days, 10,000 people have been reached. By the end of this week, he said, the goal is to reach another 20,000 people with food, water supplies and sanitation kits.

“We are looking at the life-saving needs at this point, and we’re hoping we can meet the needs of the 400,000 people,” Palusky said.  “We have a short-term plan and a long-term plan.”

Additionally, he said approximately, 40,000 children were impacted by the storm.

“We just opened our first child-friendly space for 400 children. These child-friendly spaces will help children cope with the emotional impact, play in a calm, safe environment, and catch up on missed schoolwork.”

Similarly, Save the Children has emptied warehouses of aid from three continents to send to the Philippines in order to help children and their families. Technical and medical experts are also on hand.

Spokesperson Francine Uenuma, Save the Children said they have established child-friendly spaces in Tacloban. The organization has also been distributing hygiene kits. In addition to the already established presence in the county, Internationally, close to 70 additional staff members have been brought in to address the urgent needs.

“We have a long term plan to reach 500,000 in multiple sectors,” Uenuma said. “The World Health Organization estimated that 12,000 babies will be born in the affected in the next month. So we have also sent over one of our maternal health specialists as well.”

Just two days old, Jolie is one example of a newborn that entered the world less than a week after Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines. He was born in the same room that his parents and four siblings took shelter in during the mega storm. His family suffered the loss of their home and belongings.

“I need help, we all do,” said Abigail, Jolie’s mom. “I am scared for my son and my family. We need clothing, food, livelihood and shelter. We need everything.”

Grammy-Award winning artist Scott Stapp said he was so moved by the devastation in the Philippines that he immediately wanted to help.

“I wanted to help out on many levels. With a tragedy like that, as a human being, I felt compelled to want to do something,” Stapp said. “I know from personal experience of tragedies that I’ve had to go through in my life. When someone’s there, offering assistance, it can really make a difference. I was moved and felt so much, empathy, compassion and sympathy that I wanted to act.”

Stapp recently released his latest solo effort “Proof of Life” from Wind-Up Records and he will donate 10 percent of all online merchandise sales through his merchandise store (here and here) to Music For Relief.

Music For Relief was founded by Linkin Park after the Indian Ocean tsunami struck South Asia in 2004 to aid survivors of natural disasters. In 2006, the organization expanded its scope to include environmental restoration and protection as a means of disaster risk mitigation.

Another reason Scott said he wanted to get involved is because he had recently been to the Philippines.

“With that experience so fresh on my mind, and knowing the heart of the people of the Philippines, I think that just added more of a personal responsibility,” Stapp said.

Publication date: November 22, 2013