Philippines: Red Cross delivers vital aid
23-12-2011 Operational Update
Like a thief in the night, Tropical Storm Washi (also known as Sendong) has caused flash floods in the southern Philippines and taken the lives of an estimated 1,000 people while heavily damaging infrastructure.
Food and water emerged as the most urgent needs as entire villages were swept away and water networks destroyed in the hardest-hit provinces in Mindanao and Visayas regions. Many people were left with only the mud-drenched clothes on their backs, as they mourned those who did not survive.
Providing emergency relief supplies
To support the relief operations led by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and in cooperation with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the ICRC immediately dispatched 3,000 relief kits consisting of food (such as canned sardines and rice), household items (mosquito nets, blankets, jerrycans, etc.), and hygiene items (soap, etc.). The kits reached 18,000 people in three of the worst-affected areas – Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Bukidnon – within the first 48 hours.
"In a major emergency like this, people have to start receiving aid as soon as possible," says Graziella Leite Piccolo, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines who coordinated the ICRC's response. "Our partner the Philippine Red Cross already had a strong presence in the disaster-affected areas, so together we could provide rapid assistance to thousands of people during the crucial hours immediately after the tropical storm and flooding."
A second batch of 3,400 relief kits for a further 20,400 people has been sent to reinforce the initial aid to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan and to help people in other areas affected by both disaster and the ongoing internal armed conflict, such as Negros Oriental and Surigao del Sur.
Supplying clean water
Drinking water is a problem in several areas. In Cagayan de Oro, damaged pipelines hampered access to drinking water but some of the sources of clean water remained intact. Supporting the PRC's disaster management team, a team of six ICRC water specialists found ways to deliver water to both survivors in evacuation centres and residents in the surrounding neighbourhoods that were also suffering water shortages.
The joint PRC/ICRC teams increased storage capacity by setting up water bladders and connected these to tap stands or water points strategically located in five barangays (communities); Macasandig, Carmen, 1315, Kauswagan and Consolacion. This emergency response benefited around 16,000 people, providing each of them with 5 litres of drinking water per day.
Supporting health facilities
The storm damaged more than 31 health facilities and injured hundreds of people. Four hospitals in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Bukidnon and Butuan are using dressing kits, surgical kits and medicines that were pre-positioned in health facilities as part of the ICRC's regular support. Two hospitals in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan also received a donation of 8,000 antibiotic capsules.
The high number of casualties created challenges for the management of dead bodies. The ICRC donated its entire in-country stock of 189 body bags to the PRC in Cagayan de Oro.
Monitoring and assessment of the humanitarian situation continues, to ensure that the response is both effective and appropriate. The ICRC, with its partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, stands ready to provide neutral and impartial action where it is most needed.
For further information, please contact:
Allison Lopez, ICRC Manila, tel: +63 908 868 68 84
Philippe Stoll, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 31 40 or +41 79 536 92 49