UN admits failure to reach victims

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UN Humanitarian chief Valerie Amos Photo By Rene Dilan

UN Humanitarian chief Valerie Amos Photo By Rene Dilan

Baroness Valerie Amos, United Nations under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency who is leading the agency’s relief efforts in the Philippines, expressed frustration over the speed at which humanitarian and logistical aid are trickling into the disaster areas.

“I think we are all extremely distressed. This is day six and we are still not able to reach everyone. My people on the ground, they are personally concerned they are not able to reach the people,” she said.

Some of the supplies the United Nations have for the victims remain stuck in Manila because of the minimal air assets that can transport the relief aid.

“We are not able to get our resources to Tacloban and other areas. It is a frustration . . . because part of the job I have is to recognize the challenges and overcome those challenges,” she said.


The UN official noted that even Philippine government officials feel the same way.
Amos said there is a shortage of vehicles for waste management, so debris and blocked roads cannot be cleared yet. This makes it doubly challenging for humanitarian and relief aid to reach the affected people.

“I do feel we have let people down because we are not able to get in more quickly,” she lamented.

“Every disaster is different and unique to the country to which it occurs. Given the number of disasters that have happened in the Philippines just this year, it is all the more difficult for humanitarian and government to cope,” Amos said.

“Our capacity is stretched. We are still dealing with other disasters and also the supplies are run down.”

But despite the hardship being endured by the typhoon victims, Amos said that the people are holding up because of their resiliency.

“Tens of thousands of people are living in open or sheltering in the remains of their homes and badly damaged public buildings, exposed to rain and wind. Many have lost loved ones, homes, livelihood. Medical facilities for those were injured; food, clean water and basic sanitation are urgently required,” she said.

“There are many challenges ahead. We talk constantly about the resilience of the Filipino people. Yesterday, I saw it personally. People with absolutely nothing are doing their best to regain some degree of normality. We all must do much more now to ensure they receive the help they desperately need and support required to rebuild their lives,” she added.

Situation improving
But Amos said that the delivery of aid will improve with the arrival of aircraft with life-saving supplies, including 2,500 metric tons of energy biscuits from the World Food Program (WFP).

“The immediate priority for humanitarian agencies over the next few days is to scale up the relief operation on the ground. Transporting and distributing food, tarpaulins, tents, and other shelter and non-food items to ensure the people are protected have basic necessities,” she added.

Amos said humanitarian aid will also reach other areas hit by the typhoon such as Guiuan in Samar and Ormoc City.

She also lauded Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman for leading the national relief effort.

The Haiyan (Yolanda) Action Plan is targeting to get $301 million humanitarian aid to help the million disaster victims to their immediate need as of November 12 the plan is 14 percent funded.

Based on combined data of the Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC) and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), 11.8 million people were affected, with 2,357 dead, 3,853 injured and 77 missing.

Difficult
Amos explained that the capacity to reach the people in need all became more difficult because local officials have also been affected by the typhoon.

“The key element is that local officials should be the first to respond, but they themselves lost people. The local capacity on the ground should be doing a huge amount of work,” the UN official said.

“But that capacity was lost. We have to remember that even the mayor almost lost his wife. People are besides themselves looking for family members,” Amos said.

The failure to forecast the storm surge, which brought waves up to three meters in height, also added to the task at hand as it completely obliterated everything on its path.

She said that in other areas where the typhoon passed but were not hit by the storm surge, the damage was something “people have dealt with in previous crisis.”

A task force has been created to address the issues, but “massive effort is needed” in terms of removing the debris and clearing the roads.

Amos was also quick to point out that the United Nations is certainly not forgetting the aid needed by other affected areas.

“Other regions suffered severe losses and damage and have not fallen off our priority list,” she said.

Provinces outside Tacloban City affected by the typhoon and the accompanying storm surge were Roxas City, Samar and Ormoc, among others. Some areas in Palawan were also destroyed.

Amos expects the situation to pick up in the coming days as foreign aid and those from the central government are beginning to enter the devastated areas.

Countries like Australia, the United States, United Kingdom and Singapore have also sent air assets to help in the transportation and the delivery of relief aid.
The United Nations has 100 people on the ground.

“I can see operations scaling up significantly. Today and in the coming days, things will get better as logistical capacity increases and facilities at the airport continue to improve,” she said.

Amos, however, reiterated that “much more [effort and aid]is required.”

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15 Comments

  1. Let us be realistic with what is in the land, sea, and air. Philippines is not a land in whole but scattered islands. The storm damaged all system, road, airports, sea lane, docks, and communication. In day three, there were signs of movements because some were able to come to the city and report. The government has very limited resources to respond. When the report came to be chaotic, how can we respond? Were there readily available packed food to distribute? We’re there transport? We’re the landing field and wharfs available? Where are the local forces? They too got affected, mostly died. Philippines has no means for this
    situation and that is a fact. This is the result of long time corruption in the country that is being addressed now. The government is trying to save more from wasted expenses like pork barrels so they may have something to prepare for. No country will be able to respond to what many wished to be. Philippines will still be inept if another one comes. That s a fact so lets just accept it and try our best.

  2. Agnesia Schanowski on

    I’m a Filipino but I’ve been out of the country for over 30 years now. It’s indeed very depressing for us to see our fellow countrymen suffer nature’s wrath! I was very sad because I wanted to feed those who were hungry but can am too far away to do it. I was one of those who cursed the government for what seemed to be an eternity before they could extend help to the survivors! Until my husband explained to me how he understood the whole process of extending aid to my poor kababayans!
    Yes, the authorities have to study the whole situation, the how’s, the whys, the whats, etc before plunging into such gruesome responsibilities!
    It’s so easy for us onlookers to judge or to blame…but have you ever stopped and tried to put yourself in the authorities’ situation? How’ve you behaved? What could you have done if you were the head of the country?
    Let us be thankful the whole world opened their hearts and shared with our sorrows. Help organizations are doing everything to alleviate the needs of our survivors! Everyone again seems to go out of their ways just to help! In short, brotherhood, or the “bayanihan” spirit is alive again within every Filipino, here and abroad!
    Let us keep this good spirit burning in our hearts!
    Don’t forget that this is the first global fury, so huge it was, nobody has ever imagined nor expected it to be. It could have happened to any country but…sadly…our beloved country…had it!
    Let’s keep on praying…and keep on believing Him…that something GOOD is still in store for our country and our Kababayans!
    And to our President…keep up the Good work!

  3. Andrew Stephen on

    If land is not a viable alternative, use AIR. Philippine Air Force has “limited” air assets. It doesn’t say we “don’t have air assets”.

    Let’s use the “limited air assets” to distribute food packs. Yes, we may not be able to give to every one. But it is still better than not having given at all 7 days after the storm has passed.

    Now that the USS George Washington is in town, it has 26 helicopters that we can ask for help. Let’s do it now! Pride has no room in this time of situation.

    This we do at the same time we clear the roads for land travel and option in distributing relief goods.

    There are reports that DPWH contractors in the area are willing to lend their heavy equipments. it’s just that their drivers are still unaccounted up to now.

    For Christ sake, government should just provide the driver and have the heavy equipment operated. Rather than bring the heavy equipment from other provinces or even in Manila. What they lack is the driver who will operate, not the heavy equipment.

    When will this government realize all of this? When everyone is dead already? Worst tragedy that can happen to us is that more people died because of government inefficiency, and not from the typhoon itself.

  4. The international relief agencies and donors, now, trust the Philippine National Red Cross team of their valuable aids more than the current gov’t. leaders. That’s a glaring fact, especially now that the ‘in-actions’ of the current Malacanang ‘leaders’ are very evident at their handling of the aftermath of the super typhoon.

  5. The Philippines HAS no effective, viable and quick response programs in place – to meet these Contingencies and calamitous emergencies.

    It LACKS material and military assets to mobilize in time of national necessity/needs.

    It LACKS established infrastructures in place as means and highways to push these rapid mobilization. Like railroads along the big major islands, sort of an NLEX/SLEX type of highways in the same many, major islands OF THE ARCHIPELAGO.

    It LACKS effective and proven Social programs to alleviate the WIDE GAP between the poor and the Elite ruling class, which the Aquino’s would gladly categorize theirs, clan as, – in contrast with the rest of the society who are either of the blue collar types, OFW’s connected, ordinary employees, and the poor mangmang masses, patay-gutom na mga informal settlers, aka squatters of the stick up man/snatchers/muggers type of the underworld.

    It LACKS the political will to upgrade the rotten, corruption-infested, agenda filled, patronage institutionalized-bastardized culture of political system in place

    Why all these LACKS? The average Juan on the streets will point the fingers in the direction of the HORDES of CROOKS out there – – – Malacanang, the Halls of the House of the Representatives and the Senate, the ever stubborn – rock to the hardcore Customs Collector, PNP Officials moonlighting as Drug Lords protectors, Scalawag AFP Generals in the likes of Ligot/Garcia specie, Greedy GOCC’s Officials and other Govt agencies, unscrupulous Department Secs standing on their lofty moral grounds…down to the lowly tandem of Bgy Chairman and his able-bodied Kagawads….

    Do we need to write more? Nuff said……, EVERYTHING is written in the very fiber of the Filipino consciousness….from a five year old to the oldest centenarians….
    THIS IS THE STINKING-ROTTEN , BULOK PHILIPPINE SYSTEM IN A CAPSULE.

  6. alexis P. Ruizo on

    please dont forget our town palompon, can you ang temp. communication in palompon because until now we cannot contact our family, please,,

  7. Roldan Guerrero on

    I am Urging all Foreign Nation donors NEVER TO TURNOVER THEIR DONATIONS TO THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT. All aids, reliefs and any kind of assistance SPECIALLY MONEY should be turned over to proper authorities like the RED CROSS or United Nations Representatives in the Philippines. This Government is so corrupt…probably the most corrupt in Asia. These Funds and Goods if turned over to the wrong hands and authorities it will just be STOLEN.

    • danny c baleros on

      100 percent agree. these corrupt politician wiil pocket most of the donations. as I remember when mt pinatubo erupted. hawaii sends foods. canned goods but the natives and those who were affected, only got local cans of sardines. the wealthy bussinesman, sold all the stateside goods coming from the US

    • I think it would be a great idea to put the chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross at the helm of the country…fast.

      He’s the most competent to head the Philippines.
      Principled, thinking, proactive, experienced, capable and real action man. Together with Bayani BF Fernando, they can get the Philippines to the true and meaningful economic progress and prosperity that it deserve.

      Let’s get them to head the country, fast, before the present gov’t. team creates more blunders, wrong decisions and grave mistakes at the expense of the people and the country as a whole.

  8. Ray Hammond,Jr. on

    It’s not the United Nations fault as it lies at the feet of the government, namely B. Aquino !

  9. I hope and pray that international aids will be given directly to the victims in need not to the corrupt officials and their families. Please HELP the victims.

  10. virginia guevara on

    Thanks very much to Baroness Amos and the kind people from United Nations, we can now see Aid is moving through the devastated area at last after 6 days! So the Philippines has minimal Air assets and Trucks for Waste. We will be totally helpless IF raided by enemies; we hope that the future National Fund would be invested on these two priorities and Not be Handled by the Wrong Hands Ever again!

  11. Emergency relief supplies should have been tossed out of airplanes directly to the ground. The goal should have been to save the most lives not to have the most orderly aid distribution.

  12. BENJAMIN SAMONTE on

    The Filipinos express their unending gratitude to the United nation’s sincere efforts to provide the much needed reliefs/ medicine and the like to the victims of the super typhoon Yolanda (local name). To the honorable Valerie Amos, thank you so much for all your help and concerns and we pray that you succeed in your all your efforts to save lives from the ravages of natural calamities. Be safe and Gob bless.

  13. Stephen A. Ramo on

    I suggest that a war zone like approach be the initial mindset in the 1st day and few days after a disaster like this; wherein there are no infrastructure available and there is no system in place on the ground. and that the goods must be dropped or parachuted to the affected populace. this way you dont rely on clearing the highways etc, this just takes time.