Philippines: Relief agencies struggle to meet basic needs after storms

NEW YORK, 6 December 2004 - A series of devastating storms in the Philippines has left a thousand people dead or missing. Relief agencies are struggling to meet the basic needs of hundreds of thousands of survivors, especially children, who are urgently in need of water, food and medicines.

Typhoon Violeta, tropical depression Winnie, and super typhoon Yoyong all hit the Philippines last week. The storms triggered flash floods and landslides.

In the hardest-hit areas, large numbers of survivors were forced to flee their homes. Many are now crowded into evacuation centres and small hotels. Philippines Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit says he fears that disease will break out.

So far, UNICEF has provided $100,000 worth of emergency supplies and has appealed for $720,000 more to meet urgent needs.

"Our main concern at the moment is getting drug supplies in, especially ORS [oral rehydration salts], which is used for children who have severe cases of diarrhea or dehydration, as well as family kits which have basic supplies like a water container or some soap," said UNICEF Project Officer Julianna Lindsey.

Most affected areas have no water supply or electricity. Houses, day care centres and health centres have also been destroyed. The United Nations is sending in an assessment team on Wednesday.

"We think there's going to be a serious need for reconstruction, especially of things like schools and health centres," Lindsey said.