• Red Cross programs helped millions of disaster victims

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    Because of the overwhelming scale of disasters that hit the country last year, the International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC) launched massive aid programs that helped hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, particularly those displaced by calamities and armed conflicts.

    In its annual report for 2013 which was released just recently, the ICRC revealed that 659,725 people were given food, while 610,339 received drinking water, hygiene kits and tarpaulins for temporary shelter. Also, 199,134 got productive inputs like fishing and farming supplies and equipment.

    Hundreds of thousands more benefited from projects for health, hygiene and sanitation, water and housing.

    Most of the recipients were victims of typhoons Pablo and Yolanda and the clashes in Zamboanga City. About 30 percent to 40 percent of the aid recipients were women and children.

    ICRC President Peter Maurer said the extent of the destruction caused by typhoons and armed conflicts last year “resulted in humanitarian need on an overwhelming scale.”

    “The ICRC’s emergency response, which it provided with close cooperation with the Philippine Red Cross, focused on areas where it had a longstanding presence in relation to the conflict,” he said.

    “Through the ICRC’s rapid deployment mechanism, scores of surge-capacity personnel were deployed, as were experts from different National Societies, to boost existing ICRC structures,” he added.

    The group said it supported 23 hospitals and a physical rehabilitation center, gave 200 beds, and received 408 patients last year.

    Aside from internally displaced persons, jail detainees also benefited from projects by ICRC, Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and government agencies.

    The report noted that these groups addressed the overcrowding in prisons, inmates’ management of tuberculosis (TB), and problems in the prison infrastructure and criminal justice system which included delays in the hearing of cases.

    A task force created by members of the judiciary and detaining authorities reviewed cases of detainees in the Manila City Jail. The review resulted in the resolution of 390 cases.

    “With ICRC support… [the]specialists helped ease the living conditions of 8,919 detainees in 12 prisons by renovating drinking water supply and sewerage systems, sleeping facilities, kitchens, clinics and, in Manila City Jail, the drainage system,” the report said. Also, hygiene kits and recreational items were given to 14,675 more inmates, including those from Yolanda-affected jails.

    The report said TB prevalence was also monitored in jails.

    The ICRC said in its report it also helped in reestablishing links of calamity-affected people and detainees with their families.

    After the onslaught of Yolanda, a website set up by ICRC “allowed people to request a register for news about missing relatives or inform others about their whereabouts.”

    “Some 3,090 survivors registered as ‘I’m alive,’ while 974 cases of missing people were recorded, of which 504 were resolved by [the Philippine Red Cross (PRC)],” the group said.

    Also, ICRC in its report said it and PRC extended help to the wounded and sick who were victims of armed conflicts. About 23 hospitals enhanced their services with ICRC-supplied drugs, some patients were brought to ICRC-supported facilities, and treatment costs for the wounded were covered.

    ICRC also supported a local non-government organization through “sponsoring advanced studies abroad for a technician and constructing a physiotherapy workshop.” Around 400 patients were helped by the group’s services, including 63 who had their treatment and transportation costs covered and 45 who were fitted with prostheses for the first time.

    The group spent 51 million Swiss francs or P2.5 billion for the assistance programs.

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