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UN assures victims, not Philippine gov’t, of aid

Publication Date : 23-12-2013


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday toured the areas devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” last month and pledged on the spot a US$791-million aid for 4 million victims.

The visit came as the region, one of the poorest in the country, lay prostrate from the deluge-like battering of the typhoon that left 6,102 persons dead and 1,779 others missing.

The government has estimated that the typhoon inflicted $12.9 blllion in damage and made 4.1 million people homeless. It said it would need $8.17 billion over four years in a massive rehabilitation effort.
The scale of the calamity prompted Ban to survey on Saturday the ruins of Tacloban City, inhabited by 220,000 people.

After a tour of the tent cities, serving as temporary shelter of the disaster survivors, the UN chief pledged to galvanise global support for the victims to help them recover from the calamity.

He assured the victims that they would receive aid, not the Philippine government, which had been severely criticised for its outrageous slow response to provide basic relief services to the victims.

“Never despair,” he said, “The UN is behind you. The world is behind you.”

Not empty gestures
There was little doubt among the victims that the pledges were not empty gestures, unlike those that came from government officials who cluttered the disaster areas in the first few weeks of the disaster with nothing much to offer more than words among bickering officials over the delivery of relief items, and over how to deliver these and with what delivery facilities, including the communications system, that had been broken down by the typhoon.

Ban’s visit followed a UN appeal for $791 million to provide the survivors critical food assistance, clean water and shelter over the next 12 months. A UN statement said about 32 percent, or $237 million, had already been raised.

Ban didn’t leave the disaster area terribly impressed with the government’s response to the humanitarian crisis. He pointedly told reporters that he was “very impressed” with the victims’ efforts to get back on their feet despite their frustrations over the government’s response.

“The people of Tacloban are a very resilient people, and are returning to their normal lives,” he said.

Luiza Carvalho, the UN resident humanitarian coordinator in the Philippines, praised the response of the victims for matching with initiative and diligence every donor dollar given to them.

She told the Inquirer in an interview that throughout the effort, one invaluable resource has emerged: The survivors themselves who were battling great odds to survive instead of remaining tragic victims.
“In the Philippines, it’s a worthwhile investment because of this resilience aspect and the role they (survivors) really play,” Carvalho said.

“It really pushes the response very fast and further. Every dollar you invest in the Philippines, it pays back because of the capacity of the community to expand the foreign aid. They do have a very fast and strong engagement in the response,” she added.

Carvalho called on the international community to continue its support as the government started to implement its four-year Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY), a “build back” of new shelters, major infrastructure, education, health, agriculture facilities and systems.
She urged donors “not to stop in the next two, three months, [and] we have to keep the momentum.”

“We and the government will be giving accounts of the progress in a very detailed and timely manner periodically so help will flow and push into the second phase, and we can rebuild the whole communities,” she said, ensuring accountability for donations.

The United Nations supports the government’s rehabilitation program through its Strategic Response Plan, bankrolled by the $791-million appeal, to provide immediate needs and early recovery efforts for some 14 million people affected by the storm.

According to Carvalho, donations from foreign governments, organisations and private citizens had filled more than 30 per cent of the planned fund. She said the amount had accomplished more than expected as typhoon survivors “just did not wait idly by”.


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