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Salvation Army Philippines Assists Relief Efforts:Updates

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Update November 15: With the mass transport of relief supplies to the typhoon-devastated city of Tacloban still proving very difficult, The Salvation Army in The Philippines is working on alternative methods to get help to the thousands of people who are in desperate need.

Teams of Salvation Army volunteers are providing life-saving items such as bottled water, biscuits, bananas and bread for people who have been evacuated to Cebu and Manila from Tacloban. The initial outlay will provide food and water packages for 3,500 people.

The distribution of goods is only part of the response. The teams will focus on talking to and comforting the people as needed. Even in these days where rapid action is required, The Salvation Army seeks to go beyond providing for people’s physical needs – the spiritual, caring element is a vital part of helping distressed and traumatized people.

This is only an initial response ahead of the arrival of 54 tons of food, medical supplies and other essentials that await transport to Tacloban from Manila, but it will meet a pressing need that has been identified by The Salvation Army response team in Tacloban in coordination with local authorities.

In Manila, The Salvation Army is working with the local authorities and will act as a reception partner for people evacuated from Tacloban, providing spiritual and practical care as appropriate.

International Emergency Services team leader Damaris Frick reports: ‘There are major logistical challenges on the ground preventing goods from being distributed.’ With this being the case, The Salvation Army is using its extensive local connections to organize road transport for food, water and other essentials.” Damaris says that there is growing concern for the health and well-being of Salvation Army responders, with reports coming in that teams on the ground in the most affected areas are starting to run out of food and water.

Away from Leyte and Tacloban, The Salvation Army is at work in many other parts of The Philippines that are struggling to recover from Typhoon Haiyan. The government reports, for instance, that 196,361 families on the island of Panay were affected by the typhoon. Major Ronaldo Banlasan (corps officer in La Paz) visited typhoon-hit communities including Conception, Lemery and Banate in Iloilo Province on the island and has organised a team to go back to the worst-hit families with food packages.

The Salvation Army’s International Headquarters continues to receive funds from across the world to be used in the short- and longer-term responses in The Philippines, for which The Salvation Army in The Philippines is hugely grateful.

Donations can be made at SalvationArmy.ca/philippines. Those donating to The Salvation Army’s appeal for The Philippines can be assured that the Canadian government will match their donation.

Update November 14: The Salvation Army in The Philippines is spreading its assistance to communities that were hit by Typhoon Haiyan but have not received the same media coverage as the devastated city of Tacloban and Leyte Island.

In Antique Province, for instance, many towns and villages were battered by the typhoon. Salvation Army teams have conducted assessments in the communities of Tibiao, Barbasa and Bugasong, where most homes were damaged or destroyed. An initial project has been agreed to provide food to 4,710 families in Antique Province, where local corps (Salvation Army churches) are also working with the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Because of the logistical difficulties in getting supplies to Tacloban, it is likely that the project in Antique will be the first large-scale response undertaken by The Salvation Army after Typhoon Haiyan. Assessments are also taking place in other affected areas, including Iloilo, Cebu, Palawan and Mindoro.

The first Salvation Army team has now reached Tacloban, where it has linked up with the local corps/church. A consignment of 54 tons of food, water, medical supplies and other essentials is waiting to be taken to the city for distribution. The Tacloban Airport has now reopened, although the number of flights is constrained by the damaged runway and the lack of lights. The waiting list to get the food transported by air is really long.

The logistical problems will not be over once The Salvation Army manages to get its supplies to Tacloban, says Damaris. The team members have to source storage (there are no functioning warehouses) and ongoing transport. At the moment there are very few trucks available.

Update November 13: The Salvation Army in The Philippines is ready to assist the many thousands of people affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Teams are currently preparing to support the relief effort in the worst-hit areas and are addressing the logistics challenges of their travel and of the transportation of supplies.

Seven tons of food – rice and canned goods – have already been prepared for distribution in 18-kilogram packages. Transportation is a huge challenge but The Salvation Army is in a priority queue for government approval for its goods to be transported to the region in and around the city of Tacloban. Salvation Army staff are already on their way to take part in the relief effort. The region’s geography is complicating any response, with the worst-hit area being made up of several islands.

On Leyte, the island that bore the brunt of the typhoon, there is no power and only very poor, intermittent cell phone capability, meaning that it is very difficult to get a clear picture of what is happening on the ground. Contact has been made with Salvation Army officers (ministers) in the region, and all are safe.

The little contact that has been made has highlighted the scarcity of food and drinking water – and these are areas of ongoing concern. Salvation Army corps (churches) in the areas most affected – such as Leyte and the Visayas Islands – have fully distributed all available food from their welfare supplies and are keenly awaiting the arrival of food, water and medicine.

Phillipines 2In some areas that have suffered damage but not received media coverage, Salvation Army personnel are already helping people who have lost homes and possessions.

The Philippines Territory has an excellent record in disaster response but this event is on an unprecedented scale. Based on assessment of the situation, The Salvation Army will look at needs to be met beyond the initial reaction that is already under way.

Mobile communication is a major issue – and unlikely to get better soon. There is an urgent need for satellite phones that can be used by teams across the region – helping in the assessment of the situation and also improving the security of Salvation Army disaster relief personnel. Salvation Army International Headquarters is arranging for two phones to be bought and couriered to The Philippines immediately, but this will only deal with the most urgent need. The territory is also looking to source generators that can be taken to the worst-hit areas, with reports forecasting that power in some locations may not be restored for a year.

The Salvation Army in The Philippines are hugely grateful for the strong support they have received from around the world.

Donations can be made at SalvationArmy.ca/philippines. Those donating to The Salvation Army’s appeal for The Philippines can be assured that the Canadian government will match their donation.

 

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