Sunday, 17 November 2013

Typhoon Haiyan - Aid Update

 I'm seeing on the news today that the aid programme is underway in The Philippines to help vicitms of Typhoon Haiyan. I see it. It's there on my television. The Philippines authorities are distributing aid. International aid agencies are out in the field, dropping supplies down to small groups of grateful children. Good on them.

My wife (or t'missus, depending upon which part of the UK you come from) grew up in a small village near a town called Macarthur in The Philippines. Most of the family live there. They are farmers and self sufficient, living off the land and their little collection of livestock.

Macathur is on the east coast of Leyte province, around 50km south of the city of Tacloban. It is named after the American General Douglas Macarthur, who landed nearby in World War II to begin the liberation of The Philippines. On November 8, when the typhoon struck, they were pretty much right in the centre of it. They spent the duration of the storm huddled together in a neighbour's toilet. The roof of the house in which they were sheltered was ripped off during the storm. When they emerged their own homes had been destroyed, their crops ruined and their livestock all gone.

It's now more than a week since the typhoon struck. We spoke with them this morning. The aid they have so far received is as follows:

Aid from the Filipino authorities - none.

Aid from other international sources - none.

 I'm sure that people there are doing their best to help people, but don't sit and watch the news and think that everything must be okay there now that aid has arrived - because it isn't! as far as our family are concerned, any form of aid has been totally non-existent apart from visual sightings of a few helicopters flying overhead and dropping maybe 3 bags of food somewhere in the distance.

Her family have been able to borrow money from a local businessman. One reason they have been able to borrow it is because they have a daughter overseas. Other people there don't even have that luxury of being able to borrow.

This helps them, but they are also worried that it puts them at risk. There are armed people going about robbing anyone who has anything and they are hoping it doesn't become more widely known that they can do this. Should the thieves find out they have a daughter overseas then the risk of them becoming targets will increase.

Today they took a 3 hour journey to the town of Maasin on a motor bike to get food (and also to get a phone signal). Rice is being sold for 3 times the normal cost. There was a rice store in the area and some of the stock got damaged so is unsellable. This is being sold to people.

Some people are clearly seeing the typhoon as a useful business oportunity.

They live on the coast. They can't go fishing because there are too many dead bodies floating in the sea "like rubbish". They believe these to be mainly bodies from Tacloban. One of them could even possibly be an uncle of my wife who lives in Tacloban and has not been heard from since the typhoon.

In one nearby village 27 people were killed. We still can't get any money to them, so they are still having to borrow. There are no banks, no places we can send money. So for now they are having to keep struggling to survive in the remains of the one remaining family home, a Nipa hut with just a tapaulin for a roof, and with no independent means of survival.