Philippine Red Cross plans to double its Typhoon Washi response

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By Matthew Cochrane, IFRC

As tens of thousands of survivors in Mindanao enter their second month of uncertainty, the Red Cross is announcing plans to drastically increase its support to communities affected by December’s Typhoon Washi.

The Philippine Red Cross is now appealing to donors for 5.69 million Swiss francs (USD 6.1 million, Euro 4.7 million). This dramatic revision of the initial call for 2.63 million Swiss francs (USD 2.8 million, Euro 2.2 million) that was made in the aftermath of the typhoon, reflects the severity of the disaster. Typhoon Washi hit northern parts of Mindanao in the early hours of 17 December 2011, claiming at least 1,257 lives and affecting an estimated 1.14 million people.

Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, said those affected by the typhoon are still living in a perilous state. “More than a month on from Sendong (the local name for Typhoon Washi), at least 223,000 are still living in emergency shelters, with host families, or in makeshift conditions. It may take a long time for these people to get back into permanent homes, and they will need our support in the interim,” he said.

The Red Cross is pledging to support 4,000 families with either safe transitional shelters, or with kits to help them to rebuild homes. The support will go to people like Baslita Losanta and her five children, who are living in a make-shift shelter just a few metres from where their home used to stand.

Baslita remembers returning to her village on the outskirts of Iligan - one of the areas worst affected by the storm – to find that her house and those of her neighbours had been completely washed away. Now, she doesn’t know how she and her family will get by.

Selvaratnam Sinnadurai, representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines, said transitional shelters would help those whose homes were destroyed, while new locations were found to rebuild. In the wake of the storm, authorities decreed some land unsafe. “The process underway now is to find new and safe land. But in the interim, people need to be able to continue their lives with dignity and with access to basic support, and that’s we are aiming to achieve.”

The revised operation will also see the Red Cross provide 2,000 families with cash or other livelihoods support as well as reaching 15,000 families – an estimated 75,000 people – with food, water storage containers and hygiene kits. Those families receiving water containers will also be provided with crucial information on health and hygiene, helping them take the necessary steps to avoid exposure to illness and disease. A recent outbreak of the deadly bacteria Leptospirosis has claimed 16 lives and affected 377 others.

In all, the Red Cross now intends to reach 100,000 people through these various interventions.