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Eoghan Rice of Trócaire, who is part of an international humanitarian response team currently in the Philippines, speaks to Sr Anne Healy.
“People are dying with the hunger. They have nowhere to go.” says Irish missionary sister in the Philippines.
Sr. Anne Healy from Co. Tipperary, had not long returned from Leyte island to her community in neighbouring Cebu, when super typhoon Haiyan tore through the region, crushing villages, washing away homes and killing thousands.
The Killenaule woman had been visiting families in Leyte already left homeless by a recent earthquake with her community, the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. She described how the typhoon served a ruthless blow to people already on the brink, leaving “painful” and “unbelievable” destruction in its wake.
“The conditions are drastic after the typhoon. The island of Leyte has suffered tremendously along with three or four other islands. It’s painful to watch. People here are saying that this is the worst disaster of their lives… It’s unreal. The drama, the fear, the unknown. It’s unbelievable that this could happen…
“People are dying with the hunger. They have nowhere to go, they have no basic needs.”
Trócaire is providing support to missionaries and organisations in the Philippines. Sr. Anne Healy is helping to deliver food to 3,000 people, many of them children, and working tirelessly to help survivors.
Top: The Caritas Manila office has been transformed into loading centre as 250 volunteers work in shifts to pack aid destined for people in the most affected regions of the country. Credit: Eoghan Rice/Caritas. Bottom-left: Church evacuation centre in Tacloban City. Photo care of church volunteer. Bottom-right: Bogo City and Daanbantayan, North of Cebu. Credit: Caritas.
“We have visited one of the areas ourselves where thousands of people are camped with their parish priest in a church yard to try and survive. There are about eight families in one tent because there is nothing left for them. Their homes have all been crushed to the ground.”
The mammoth storm has left countless children unaccounted for. “We know that many children have died but we don’t know exactly how many because their relatives and families have also been caught up in this terrible disaster,” she said.
Sustained heavy rains and bad weather are adding to the anguish. “People are working hard to get food and water into the area. But because of the conditions of the roads it’s taking a long time for trucks to get through and it’s hard for planes to land. Some of the areas are very remote.
“People are having to bury their own dead. And we have just witnessed another earthquake, measuring 4.5, which is not helping.
In Manila. the capital of the Philippines, 250 volunteers with Trócaire partner, Caritas Manila, are busy packing aid for the affected islands.
“Volunteers have been packing goods into family packs since Sunday and on Wednesday (13th November) we will see the first batch flown to the Leyte province, which bore the brunt of the disaster,” said Eoghan Rice, Trócaire’s Humanitarian Communications Officer, speaking from Manila.
Each family pack contains 5 kilos of rice, 9 canned goods, 6 packets of noodles and 5 packets of protein rich manna rice. The packs are designed to last a family of five people three days and tomorrow 2,000 such packs will be sent to Leyte. 8,000 tarpaulins are currently being distributed to provide temporary shelter for survivors.
Meanwhile Filipino people on the battered islands are reaching out to their own in any way they can. “Local people are donating clothes to people who lost everything, so that allows us to focus on getting food,” said Sr Anne. But because of shortages “the price of food has gone up so many people can’t afford to buy it. We have been able to buy rice and other products at local markets and distribute it to people.”
With aid drastically needed, “the people are pleading with us for food, clothes, water, whatever we can get to them,” she said. “There are so many still missing and there will be more deaths. I hope that Irish people can continue to support us as they have, because it will be months before people here can in any way get their lives back to shape.”