By Bharat Azad
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), a group of 14 UK aid organisations has today said that lifesaving aid is on its way to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan; despite obstacles including impassable roads, closed ports and increasing security concerns. Water, food and emergency shelter remain the top priority. (c) COSE
With 11 million affected people, the biggest obstacle is blocked roads, which are narrow, strewn with heavy debris and in many cases impassable by vehicles. Many aid workers are carrying out assessments on foot, walking for hours across rough terrain.
Travel to affected areas remains a challenge
The airport in Tacloban is too small for aid agencies to fly in the volume of water, food and shelter materials needed and until yesterday, sea ports have been closed or congested. Aid planes are now being flown into Manila and Cebu, while a potential boat route is being considered. However, onward road travel to Tacloban and other affected areas remain a challenge, with some agencies requesting army helicopters to access the hardest to reach communities.
Telephone lines and the internet have been offline for days, making contact with affected communities and Filipino partner agencies impossible. However communications infrastructure is gradually being restored and aid workers say it will make a significant difference to the coordination and movement of aid.
Whilst the Philippines government is experienced in dealing with the effects of storms, the devastation caused by Haiyan is unprecedented. The government, army and police have lost a significant number of staff due to the disaster.
People are desperate for food and water
This is understandably affecting their capacity to coordinate the response. Added to the challenge is the security situation, which is becoming increasingly volatile. People are desperate for food and water and a few of them are resorting to taking what they need to survive by force.
Jackson Yab, a volunteer with HelpAge's local partner COSE (Coalition of Services of the Elderly), has been witness to the worsening situation:
"What I saw is piles of garbage all over the place. People are wandering on the street, begging and shouting for food. The smell is very bad because of garbage and corpses. Some older people and young children are left alone and just walking along the street. They look frail and sick.
"Looting is now happening in Tacloban as the survivors are hungry and getting angry. This started with breaking and entering into shops and has now escalated into robbery. The looters move from one place to another place, looking for valuable items. I hope the situation will be better as people receive aid."
HelpAge and partners are responding to older people's needs
COSE has been working with older people's associations (OPAs) and local partners in Negros Occidental, Bohol and Cebu provinces. With COSE, we have completed a rapid assessment in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
It is reported that coastal communities in six barangays (villages) have been devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. We are now in the process of procuring food and other essential items to distribute to older people in need.
By Sunday, we will start delivering relief items in Ormoc City in Leyte province, followed by other cities in Leyte and Negros Occidental. Each household will receive 10kg of rice, canned foods, sugar, coffee and powdered milk to replace lost food stocks and ensure food availability. Other essential items include blankets, mosquito nets, buckets/jerry cans, flashlights and first aid supplies. Later, the shelter materials (in kind or the cash equivalent) for a minimum of 1,000 households will be purchased locally.
COSE plans to recruit additional staff to help with the relief and response operation with at least two staff in each city to do the distribution. Older people who have been affected by Haiyan will be connected through a support system set up by COSE's network of older people's associations on the ground.
In the UK
Our sister organisation, Age International, has launched an emergency appeal to support older people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
Or you can text URGENT to 70004 to donate £5 to help older people in the Philippines.
In the USA
Our sister organisation, HelpAge USA, has launched an emergency appeal to support older people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
If you live outside the UK and the USA you can donate to support older people by Typhoon Haiyan here.