Typhoon Haiyan has caused severe devastation in the Philippines leaving an unknown number of people dead. While early estimates have been made, the number of fatalities is likely to rise. Survivors are without food, clean drinking water or shelter. Immediate global support, especially funding, is needed for providing assistance to affected communities.
Durham University Professor and IHRR Co-Director Lena Dominelli, a sociologist and international social worker in disaster resilience, is in touch with survivors of the typhoon disaster in the Philippines who she says are desperately in need of humanitarian aid.
“It’s absolutely essential that money is sent to people for buying food, clean drinking water, and medical supplies for those who have critical conditions. A lot of the areas destroyed by the typhoon have no power supplies and no communications except by satellite phone,” said Dominelli.
Dominelli added that rebuilding housing and reopening schools is crucial to helping communities rebound from the disaster. All of the people that Lena spoke with on the ground had lost their homes due to the typhoon:
“Some were in their beds when the typhoon struck, and awoke when the roof was blown off their house. Suddenly they were inundated with water and debris, and then the whole house lifts off the ground. Their immediate thought was where can we go to protect ourselves? So they went to neighbours, cowering together in the wind and rain. Neighbours are really quite important in protecting people and looking to each other for support.”
“In some neighbourhoods everyone lost their homes; in others many were seriously damaged. The people I support are some of the poorest people, and their houses would have been really flimsy to begin with because they can’t afford good housing. In the longer term it’s crucial that we find ways of sharing resources to provide people with good quality housing that can withstand future disasters.”
Financial contributions no matter how small can assist local charities in providing support to communities at the centre of the disaster. Dominelli says international charities such as the Red Cross, Medicins sans Frontières and Save the Children that have local branches in the Philippines, and the UK-based Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), are examples of organisations that have networks essential to delivering aid where it is needed most and require donor support.
While encouraging donations from around the world to support disaster relief efforts in the short-term, this is also a time to reflect on how to improve capacities for disaster risk reduction and preparedness for future calamities in the Philippines, and all other countries vulnerable to extreme weather events and geohazards. Doing so is essential for reducing loss of life and infrastructural damage, and recovering more speedily in future events.
Professor Sarah Curtis, Executive Director of the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience said:
“This crisis is very distressing for us all because of the human suffering and loss involved. It illustrates once again how important it is to build international collaboration to prepare for hazards and risks and to respond to them when they occur. At this stage in the crisis encouragement for direct financial aid donations seems the most useful action for institutes like IHRR to be taking. As the process of reconstruction gets underway, IHRR will be in touch with colleagues in the Philippines and other countries to find out whether we can support transfer of learning from experience and knowledge that may be helpful for those working to recover from this event.”
Dominelli added: “Good preparedness is proactive, people have to start thinking in advance. If this were to happen, what are the worst case scenarios? What would we do in such situations? Who would do what? How can we build community-based disaster strategies that will help people to survive and thrive? We want them to be able to thrive in order to withstand future calamities.”