AS staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) moved into position to join a major relief effort, a clearer picture is emerging of the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda and the resulting needs on Samar Island, where the typhoon made first landfall in the Philippines.
The organization is focusing its initial relief efforts on the island, also affected by a protracted armed conflict, where it has been working for many years.
After entering Samar at Allen, a team travelled along the west coast to Catbalogan and on to Guiuan, near the southernmost point, before reaching Borongan, on the east coast, on Wednesday.
”The island’s west coast has been spared major destruction,” said Gegham Petrosyan, the ICRC’s health coordinator in the Philippines.
“However, along the south coast, from Santa Rita all the way down to Guiuan, the devastation is massive. Health-care facilities in all the municipalities, including the public hospital in Guiuan, have suffered damage. Health posts have been set up by medical personnel to care for the incoming patients with what little means they have.”
Renewed heavy rain showers and deteriorating security—armed gunmen and looting have been reported—are making matters worse for an already exhausted population without shelter, food or potable water.
”People are desperate for life-saving aid,” said Petrosyan. “However, logistical and security constraints continue to hamper the distribution of desperately needed relief.”
The ICRC is working around the clock to bring relief to the population as rapidly as possible, closely coordinating its relief efforts with the Philippine Red Cross and other partners within the International Red Cross and Red Cre- scent Movement.
The ICRC has launched an appeal for 15 million Swiss francs (more than $16 million) to bring aid to 36,000 households for three months.