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U.N. Agencies Respond to Humanitarian Crisis in Philippines

NEW YORK, Nov 9 2013 (IPS) - The United Nations and its agencies, including the UN children’s agency UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP)  have marshalled their resources to help victims of the deadly typhoon in the Philippines that has killed more than  1,200.

In a statement released Sunday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was extremely concerned by the impact of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the largest storms to ever make landfall, which has affected some 9.5 million people in the Philippines and caused widespread destruction and displacement. The death toll appears to be rising steeply, as remote areas are reached.

He said the United Nations and humanitarian partners, in close coordination with local and national authorities, have quickly ramped up critical relief operations to help families in desperate need. While many communities are very difficult to reach, with roads, airports and bridges destroyed or blocked with debris, agencies have begun airlifting food, health, shelter, medical and other life-saving supplies and have deployed specialist teams and vital logistics support.

The Secretary-General thanked member states for their prompt response, including bilateral funds, relief teams and civil-military support. He urges the international community to continue to show their solidarity with the people of the Philippines.

Therapeutic food supplements for children, medical kits, and water and hygiene supplies have been mobilized to support some 13,000 families in the affected areas, while food, logistics and communications equipment, and thousands of tarpaulins are being flown to the typhoon-hit areas.

The WFP says it is mobilising food and  logistics supplies and communications equipment to assist the Government-led emergency response. Country Director and WFP Representative Praveen Agrawal, who returned Saturday to Manila from the affected areas, said: “The main challenges right now are related to logistics. Roads are blocked, airports are destroyed. As the UN agency leading the humanitarian community’s Logistics Cluster, WFP is working with the government to set up operational hubs and organize airlifts of essential supplies.”

Some 300kg of IT equipment including digital radios are  being sent from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Dubai. WFP has mobilized an immediate US$2 million to buy high-energy biscuits and rice, but will be appealing for more funds as the needs become clearer. These efforts are taking place against a backdrop of other situations already requiring food assistance in the Philippines:

Since early November, WFP has been providing rice and fortified biscuits to about 173,000 people affected by the Bohol earthquake.
For the people displaced by fighting in Zamboanga, WFP was assisting about 50,000 people in the early stages of the emergency in September, and is still providing food to some 18,000 people.
WFP’s regular operations in the Philippines, separate from the Bohol and Zamboanga operations, aim to reach 1.2 million people with food assistance this year.

“ I have deployed a large UN Disaster and Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) team, some of whom arrived today in Tacloban, one of the worst affected areas in Leyte province, where they are coordinating closely with the authorities,” Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos said Friday.

The United Nations remains on standby to mobilize any support that the people of the Philippines require from the international community. As the full impact is being assessed of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which tore through the Philippines over the last 48 hours, children are expected to be amongst the most affected with some 1.7 million children believed to be living in the areas hit by the emergency, according to the UN children’s agency UNICEF

“With some 36 provinces reported by the government to have been hit by the typhoon – the strongest ever to have made landfall anywhere in the world – we know that a significant number of children will have been badly affected,” said UNICEF’s representative in the Philippines Tomoo Hozumi.

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