It's Your Shot 4

Canadian Relief to Devastated Philippines Urgently Needed After Typhoon Haiyan

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Typhoon Haiyan, the horrifically strong tropical cyclone that slammed the Philippines Nov. 8, leaving an estimated 10,000 dead and tens of thousands more displaced, is poised to emerge as one of the worst natural disasters of the early 21st century. It is already estimated to be the strongest storm in recorded history to make landfall, with winds in excess of 215kph.

In addition to significant loss of life, extensive injuries and widespread destruction of property have been reported, according to the Government of Canada’s website, which notes that the typhoon set off landslides, knocked out power in several provinces, and cut communications in the country's central region before making landfall in Vietnam and Laos on Nov. 10.

A staggering 9.5 million people are reportedly affected, and although assessments are ongoing, humanitarian needs are certain to be enormous. So too the needs of pets, farm animals and wildlife. Canadian relief to the devastated Philippines is essential.

Those wishing to help have multiple options. In an email response to Samaritanmag, Nicolas Doire, media relations with Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada writes, “The best way to help: Donate money - not clothing or food - to experienced humanitarian organizations.

“To this effect, Canada has established a mechanism to match the donations made by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities.”

Doire confirms that for every eligible dollar donated by Canadians to registered Canadian charities in response to the impact of Typhoon Haiyan between now and Dec. 9, 2013, the government will set aside one dollar for the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund.

The government will use the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund to provide assistance through international and Canadian humanitarian organizations by employing established channels and procedures.

“In addition,” Doire writes, “Canada has provided an initial $5 million in support to humanitarian organizations striving to meet the needs of the people affected by this typhoon in the Philippines and in other affected countries. These funds will be used to provide emergency relief activities and will include the provision of emergency shelter, food, water, livelihood support, and other essential services.

“Canada also made an initial allocation of $30,000 to the International Federation of the Red Cross on November 8 to help launch relief operations and meet the needs of those affected by crisis.”

The Canadian Red Cross anticipates large-scale, far-reaching involvement in the Philippines disaster. Guy Lepage, a disaster management volunteer with the organization and a communications expert with the org’s Emergency Response Unit (ERU) confirms to Samaritanmag that “a decision was made today to send one of our ERUs to the area which is a field clinic that provides outpatient clinic services.

“The mobile unit can serve a population of about 30,000, can care for about 20 temporary inpatients while providing referrals and be operational within 12 hours of hitting the ground,” he says. “We also deliver psycho-social support and community outreach. As you can imagine, going through a crisis like this really impacts mental health, so we strive to address those needs as well.”

Lepage — who volunteered during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, Haiti in 2010 and Hurricane Sandy in New York in 2012 — expects to be on the ground in the Philippines during the second round of staff rotations. He confirms that Haiyan “is a colossal disaster, and people there are still determining how bad it is.”

According to a report from the Associated Press, the city of Tacloban, home to about 220,000 people on Leyte island, bore the full force of the winds and the tsunami-like storm surges. “Most of the city is in ruins, a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees,” the AP reports.

“Malls, garages and shops have all been stripped of food and water by hungry residents,” while some 40 dead bodies were witnessed by a reporter laying on the ground over a seven kilometer stretch.

“Rural areas are completely cut off from communications and responders are struggling to get a clear picture of what’s needed,” Lepage says. “I can tell you the Red Cross is going to be there for years. Just caring for immediate needs — food, shelter, water, medical — will take anywhere from three to four months, maybe longer. And that’s phase one.

“After a while, we transfer into the recovery phase which is getting people back on their feet and self-sustaining. And you’ve seen the pictures on TV; parts of the country are completely destroyed. So it’s going to take a very, very long time.”

Lepage stresses that cash donations are the most effective way for people to help. “It’s great if people want to donate supplies like blankets and clothing, but that stuff has to be shipped overseas which can be very expensive,” he says.

Those wishing to donate to the Red Cross can visit its website or call 1-800-418-1111. “And if they want to specifically donate to the Typhoon Haiyan as opposed to a general fund,” Lepage adds, “they can indicate that.”

People can also make a fast $5 donation by texting Red Cross to 30333. “Those are the best ways to help,”Lepage says. “We work with the Philippines Red Cross and they are in a better position to determine what’s needed.”

Many other organizations have also stepped to assist with Typhoon Haiyan relief, including Médecins Sans Frontières, World Vision, Unicef, and Humanitarian Coalition, to name a few. All are accepting donations.

Elizabeth Sharpe, Toronto-based communications manager with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), says the situation on the ground in the Philippines for pets and farm animals is also extremely desperate, judging by what’s been seen so far.

She confirms to Samaritanmag that WSPA has dispatched a Disaster Management Response Team to the worst affected areas to aid animals, and that emergency donations from the public are urgently needed. To that end, the org has put up a fundraising page and is maintaining a disaster blog.

“We’re still getting information from our staff on the ground who are working with local governments and aid agencies to assess the animals’ needs. But our prediction is that animals could need anything from emergency food, water, shelter to veterinary care.

“How this storm has affected animals remains unknown at this point because the response so far has been focused on the people caught up in the disaster and many of the areas are still inaccessible. But based on human toll and the devastation in these rural areas,” Sharpe says, “we know that animals will desperately need our help.” 

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.