An exceptional response to the disaster

Damages in Eastern Samar province. The south coast of Samar and Eastern Samar provinces had been severely hit by Haiyan Typhoon. Photo: Brice Blondel / Handicap International

Damages in Eastern Samar province. The south coast of Samar and Eastern Samar provinces had been severely hit by Haiyan Typhoon. Photo: Brice Blondel / Handicap International

Less than two weeks after typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, Handicap International has deployed an emergency response team of around fifteen expatriates, sent out to reinforce the teams already working in the country. 

Several tens of tons of freight, composed of emergency kits and drinking water filter pumps, have been sent to the country. From now on Handicap International’s top priorities are to facilitate access to the areas which are still isolated (logistics platform), to prevent the onset of disabilities (health care for the injured) and to meet people’s basic needs (distributions). Handicap International is also preparing a second intervention phase, aimed at helping the population of the Philippines start reconstruction work.

Over 13 million people affected

The typhoon swept across part of the Philippines on the 8th November. The consequences are immeasurable. According to the United Nations , over 13.2 million people have been affected in a country with 92 million inhabitants. Nine regions have been particularly severely affected, 4.4 million people have been displaced, and over one million homes damaged or entirely destroyed. “We have been able to access the region of Tacloban where certain neighbourhoods have been abandoned as the survivors have sought refuge elsewhere, in villages which are still intact. The typhoon swept across a large swathe of land over which everything has been devastated, the damage is extensive,” recounts Brice Blondel from Handicap International.

Emergency kits dispatched by plane

As soon as the disaster occurred, Handicap International sent out contingency supplies it had stocked in Dubai and Lyon. These emergency kits contain enough tents, blankets, cooking equipment etc. to meet the essential needs of 750 families, i.e. 4,400 people, who have lost everything. Four DVFP kits , were also subsequently sent out to set up focal points where people can obtain treatment for minor injuries and refer the most vulnerable people to the appropriate structures. At the same time, a load of 50 drinking water filter pumps has also been sent out from London. These pumps can filter up to 300 litres of water an hour each.

Logistics platform

With its extensive experience in logistics, Handicap International is currently preparing to deploy a logistics platform in the Leyte sector, to supply humanitarian aid to the most isolated zones. “When conventional transport systems are down, it is vital that alternative flexible and adaptable solutions and logistics services are put into place. Our platform will allow all the NGOs working in affected areas to ensure the humanitarian aid reaches their beneficiaries,” explains Hélène Robin, Handicap International’s Head of Emergency Response for the Philippines. “This will strengthen other NGOs’ responses, notably by ensuring distributions to isolated populations.”

Preventing disabilities

At the start of this week, our emergency response teams were able to visit several hospitals in order to identify the needs in terms of emergency rehabilitation. It is vital, that in the wake of the disaster, people with injuries are provided with care immediately, in order to limit the onset of long-term disabilities.
In addition to rehabilitation care, the association could rapidly put into place distributions of walking aids to help with the mobility of people with injuries or disabilities, who have lost everything in the disaster.

Preparation for the second phase

The initial emergency phase must be rapidly followed by a post-emergency phase to help families rebuild. Handicap International is therefore preparing for this essential phase, which will involve cash for work schemes for the clean-up (although the authorities have cleared and cleaned up the main routes, entire areas of the country are still covered in debris). The association could also manage the reconstruction of shelters, either directly, or again through cash for work schemes.

Back up from a dedicated emergency team

In normal circumstances, Handicap International’s teams in the Philippines are made up of 70 employees. In the first few days following the typhoon, back up for these teams arrived in the form of emergency response specialists, used to working in crisis contexts and to being deployed on a few days’ notice to help the most vulnerable and fragile populations. This back up includes logisticians to work on the supply of aid, physiotherapists to provide care for the injured and an accessibility specialist whose valuable expertise is being used to help ensure people with disabilities are not excluded from accessing humanitarian aid.