Latest report from Trócaire’s Humanitarian Communications Officer Eoghan Rice in the Philippines
Aid is rushing to the Philippines from Caritas organisations around the world after Super Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) battered the country last weekend.
Trócaire is working with and funding Caritas Philippines, delivering family packs which contain five kilos of rice, nine canned goods, six packets of noodles and five packets of protein rich manna rice. Two thousand of these were delivered this week on Leyte – one of the most affected islands and more is to come. Also 38,000 hygiene kits and tarpaulins/plastic sheets are being distributed and 5,000 of these will arrive in Tacloban on Sunday (17 Nov).
The international Caritas relief effort is coordinated with the national Caritas and the local Church. Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines-NASSA, has been part of an International Caritas Humanitarian Team on Leyte.
“We have never faced anything of this magnitude,” he said. “We greatly appreciate the support and solidarity from Caritas members around the world. By working together in a coordinated way, we can help save lives and rebuild communities.”
Packing aid in Cebu. Carole Reckinger/Caritas Luxembourg
With support from Trócaire, the Redemptorists in Tacloban are providing 2,500 people with food, medical assistance, sleeping and cooking materials and clean water for drinking, cooking and washing.
Trócaire is also supporting and funding the work of a number of missionary organisations such as the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and the Sisters of Mercy, all of whom have a long-standing presence particularly on the island of Cebu and on the neighbouring island of Bohol. The Sisters are reaching 3,000 people – 1,500 of them children who were attending their schools. They have been able to supply rice, canned fish and drinking water in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon.
Catholic Relief Services will begin handing out 28,000 temporary shelters in the hard-hit Philippine city of Ormoc this weekend. The weatherproof tarpaulins will go to residents whose homes were destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan.
The tarps, along with kits containing hygiene and household items, are coming by boat from Cebu City and will be stored in the gymnasium of a Catholic school as the distribution is organised.
Ormoc, a city of 190,000, is on the western side of Leyte, across a small range of mountains from the provincial capital Tacloban. Both cities experienced 13-foot tidal surges and devastating winds after Haiyan came ashore with winds approaching 200 mph. There are estimates that 90 percent of the structures in Ormoc were damaged or destroyed.
The situation I’ve observed in Ormoc is calm. Boats are coming in with aid. There is a lot of helicopter activity. Assistance is arriving.
The Caritas team has been able to travel to Tacloban and to other remote areas of Leyte. The same mild atmosphere is present at the docks, where 6000 people are queuing up to leave on ferries to nearby Cebu. In the queue for the boat, I met by chance a Philippine family with relations in my hometown of Dublin.
Rollie and Mapeth Baldesco, both 41, and their children Karyl, 17, Esme, 4 and Ellyza, 6, are from Tacloban, where over 4000 people are now said to have died. “We almost didn’t make it,” said Rollie. “We were hiding downstairs from the wind, but we didn’t expect the wave to come. We had to grab the small children and swim upstairs.”
The need of aid in Tacloban is great. “Our house was ruined. We had no water. We were able to survive on some tinned food. We had to leave the city because we were afraid of disease as there are bodies on the street,” he said.
In addition to the Ormoc distribution, CRS plans to give shelters to residents of Palo on the eastern coast of Leyte about 10 miles south of Tacloban. Office space has been secured in Catholic church buildings there.
Caritas relief operations include a number of areas. “We’re trying to reach the devastated areas. But it’s still very difficult. There’s still no electricity or petrol, and no communications with people on the ground,” said Msgr Broderick Pabillo, Auxiliary Bishop of Manila, the President of Caritas Philippines (NASSA).
The Church has delivered eight truckloads of food packs, water, clothing and cash to the Archdiocese of Capiz, where tens of thousands of people are in need.
The Church has also opened a base in Calbayog to help reach people on Samar Island. Fr. Cesar Aculan, who is working on relief operations, said it will provide a critical staging area for emergency relief operations.
Significant Caritas relief operation began there on 13 December in support of the work being done by parishes.“Typhoon victims here in need food, they are already hungry,” said Fr. Aculan.
Fr. Neil Tenafrancia of the Diocese of Borongan said there is no let up in the Church and other organisation’s relief efforts but the fuel crisis limits their operations. “That’s our problem here because we remain isolated. Many roads were destroyed by the typhoon,” he said.
Msgr Broderick Pabillo says the people of the Philippines has shown great solidarity.
“Filipinos are willing to help the victims, with donations and also with prayers. Here in Manila many volunteers are preparing the aid parcels that are being sent to the disaster areas,” he said. “They’re also welcoming the survivors who’ve managed to get to Cebu and then Manila.”
All Catholic Church Masses in the Philippines for the following nine days will be offered for the dead and the grieving families they left behind.