Manila, Philippines – Oxfam has dispatched a team of experts on the ground to assess the water, public health and sanitation conditions in Bohol today and another batch of teams will go to Northern Cebu, Northern and Eastern Samar and Leyte, in the Eastern Visayas region in the Philippines, after super typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) hit the Philippines on 8 November.
“Making sure people have clean water, safe sanitation and a roof over peoples heads will be an immediate priority. These disasters compound the burden of Philippines’ poorest people. Small scale farmers and those relying on fishing to make a living will be hardest hit. Their fields and their boats and tackle will be badly damaged and they will need help not only today but in months to come,” said Marie Madamba-Nuñez of Oxfam in the Philippines.
“Economic solutions to root out poverty and inequality must be paired with minimising the risk of poor communities to the vagaries of weather and climate change,” she said
Super typhoon Haiyan is the country’s strongest typhoon for the year, and the third in its history. Yolanda has affected the 36 provinces, where initial reports place Eastern Visayas as the worst hit. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) as of today, 4 million people or 905,353 familes have been affected by Yolanda across the Philippines, leaving at least 100 dead. 748,572 individuals are displaced. These figures can still climb after more reports from the ground come in.
Severe damages to properties and infrastructure have been reported. Electric posts and trees have blocked roads, buildings have been wrecked, and houses, especially those of light materials, have been partially damaged or destroyed. The province of Samar remains inaccessible. This has made knowing more about and thus being able to respond to the impact and scale of the disaster more difficult.
Haiyan is projected to cost the country billions of pesos in damages to properties, infrastructure and livelihoods. Haiyan comes on the heels of a devastating earthquake and a storm that wiped out rice harvests worth millions of pesos last October this year, and a deadly standoff between the military and rebel forces that left hundreds dead and thousands homeless in September.
Haiyan’s path crossed mostly agricultural communities in Eastern Visayas, where one in every three persons is considered poor.
According to the government’s Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, Eastern Visayas is primarily an agricultural region with approximately 31% or 723,048 hectares of its total land area considered agricultural land. Agriculture, fisheries, and the forestry sector contributed 20.5% to the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs 19% of the region’s total population in 2011. Eastern Visayas contributed 2.56% of the country’s GDP, also in 2011.
Haiyan is threatening to overwhelm the country’s state and non-state humanitarian organizations, already stretched from responding to the previous disasters.
“We call on humanitarian players to coordinate life-saving and relief efforts given the possible scale of Haiyan’s impact,” said Nuñez.
Ranked the “world’s third highest disaster risk country” according to the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), the Philippines will continue to face multiple and possibly simultaneously occurring emergencies because of its high incidence of poverty and exposure to natural hazards.