TACLOBAN, Philippines: United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged typhoon survivors to “never despair” as he pledged on Saturday to rally global backing to help them recover from one of their country’s deadliest disasters.
“Never despair. The UN is behind you. The world is behind you,” the UN chief said during a visit to the devastated central city of Tacloban, which suffered more than 5,000 deaths from Super Typhoon Yolanda, which swept through the central islands of the Philippines on November 8.
Wearing a baseball cap, the 69-year-old South Korean UN chief walked through a narrow, debris-strewn street in Fatima, a coastal district in the city of 220,000 people where tsunami-like storm surges wrought by the typhoon obliterated entire neighborhoods.
A ship that ploughed through the neighborhood after being hurled by huge waves lay stranded nearby, six weeks after the deluge.
“I’m here to convey the strongest solidarity of the international community. This tragedy can be overcome when we are united,” he said.
The UN executive said international agencies will mobilize $800 million funding support to storm-hit areas in one year.
“We will try to provide life saving support and a long term development strategy, which will focus on reconstruction and resettlement of your community… Let us build safer and better communities,” the official said.
Ban said that UN-affiliated humanitarian organizations from 25 countries extended help to typhoon-stricken areas.
“We deployed our senior and hardworking staff to work day and night with your people,” Ban added.
“The destruction is beyond description. I was deeply saddened of what I have seen. I am deeply sorry of the loss of lives.”
Ban visited an evacuation center at the Manlurip Elementary School where he led the distribution of relief goods to schoolchildren. He also talked to some typhoon survivors in the coastal village of Fatima.
Ban also visited a Tacloban tent school, put up by the UN Children’s Fund, where pupils sang Christmas carols for him. He handed out backpacks to almost 200 elementary school children there.
The typhoon, one of the strongest ever to hit land, left 6,102 people dead and 1,779 others missing, according to a government tally.
Ravaging an area the size of Portugal, it inflicted $12.9 billion in damage and left 4.4 million people homeless. The Philippine government said it would need $8.17 billion over four years in a massive rebuilding effort.
The UN earlier this month launched a global $791-million call for aid to take care of the needs of the survivors over the next 12 months.
Ban told reporters he was “very impressed” with the residents’ efforts to get back on their feet.
“The people of Tacloban are a very resilient people and are returning to their normal lives,” he added.
Last week, the government launched an $8.17 billion rehabilitation plan to rebuild the lives of millions battered by Yolanda.
The death toll from the typhoon has climbed to 6,100. Damage to agriculture, infrastructure and property was pegged at $12.9 billion.
Before he flew to Tacloban, Ban paid a courtesy call on President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
“The President thanked the United Nations for supporting our efforts for relief and rehabilitation of those affected by Yolanda. They talked about the development of these efforts,” Deputy Spokesman Abigail Valte said in a radio interview.