Philippines

Typhoon-affected families struggle to regain normal life: Red Cross steps up relief efforts

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Still reeling from devastation wrought by typhoons Pedring (Nesat) and Quiel (Nagail), the country braces itself for another tropical storm Ramon (Banyan) which continues to threaten the country with more rains and destruction.

The Philippine Red Cross and all its chapters and 143 volunteers at the barangay level ( 143 means 44 volunteers – one leader and 43 members) are on full alert, monitoring the situation and pre-positioning life saving equipment and relief supplies for quick response in the provinces of Eastern Visayas and Northeastern Mindanao which are likely to be affected by typhoon Ramon, according to PAG-ASA.

In the meantime, PRC has stepped up its relief and recovery efforts for worst-hit families still struggling to pick up the pieces back to their normal life.

Yet, despite the concerted efforts of the government and many humanitarian players including the Philippine Red Cross, much has yet to be done.

Francisco Pangilinan, 53, a 143 volunteer of the Red Cross with three children, was among the more than 7,000 persons (about 1,400 families) who were marooned in their village (barangay) in Northville 9, barangay O' Este in Calumpit Bulacan. Bulacan was one of the worst hit provinces by the twin typhoons Pedring and Quiel. Flood water rose to as high as 12 feet, forcing residents to climb to their rooftops for safety. Some managed to seek shelter at the nearby elementary school. Frank helped in the rescue of his neighbors after rushing his family to safety.

Frank said the effects of the recent typhoons were worse than typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) which also devastated the country in October 2009, including Bulacan. With more typhoons expected during the year according to PAG-ASA, "The worst may yet to come", Frank said.

Grace Luna, who was also among the affected persons in the same village, embraced her three young children playing in one corner of their partially destroyed house and said, "I am worried for my children. When will these disasters ever stop"?

Listening to the conversation, tears slowly formed in the eyes of seventy-year old Marina Raymond who was half blind. She reached out for the hand of her husband Antonio, also 70, who was immobile on his chair due to heart stroke. The two were rescued by their neighbors during the height of the floods.

Both Marina and Antonio uttered nothing, but their eyes said it all. They were worried about their small grandchildren by their only daughter who were also hard-hit in another village in Bulacan.

The dire predicament of Francisco, Grace Marina and Antonio is just a glimpse of what is happening in many provinces in worst hit regions in Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Cordillera Administrative regions which affected a total of 699, 909 families ((3,250,104 persons) of which 52,383 families (266,103 persons) have sought refuge in 655 evacuation centers. The typhoons have also led to at least 59 deaths and 70 injuries, with 31people still missing.

As well as human casualties, the typhoons Pedring and Quiel have caused extensive damage or destruction to houses, infrastructure and agriculture. A total of 49,386 houses have been damaged, 7,697 totally and 41,689 partially. Authorities have estimated that the cost of damage to agriculture and infrastructure is PHP 8.8 billion (CHF 182.6million or USD 201 million), with the likelihood of increasing as a clearer picture of the typhoons' impact emerges.

Earlier, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has launched a preliminary emergency appeal for 3. 5 million Swiss Francs (CHF3,5 million) equivalent to about P150 million in cash, kind, or services for its relief and recovery efforts for 50,000 families (250,000 persons) for the next eight months in affected provinces in Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Cordillera Administrative regions.

The Appeal was issued 4 October 2011 through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The Emergency Appeal will cover food needs (rice noodles and sardines) for 50,000 affected families or 250,000 persons, non-food items for 20,000 families, and provision of safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion for 20,000 families.

The Appeal also covers recovery phase with the provision of shelter for 1,000 families, shelter repair kits for 5,000 families and livelihood opportunities for 1,000 families.

Also, the Appeal includes assistance to PRC disaster preparedness and capacity building.

With the support of the Federation and local donors, Philippine Red Cross is currently providing 50,000 food items and 20,000 non-food items to affected families in worst hit areas.Food items consist of 5 kilos of rice, 3 cans of sardines and 5 packs of noodles. Non-food items include mats, blankets and jerry cans.

The Red Cross has earlier rescued more than 2,600 people during the height of floods in Bulacan.