After days of logistical logjams and transportation paralysis, relief supplies have begun pouring into the ravaged midsection of the nation, with U.S. Osprey aircraft and C-130 cargo planes delivering pallets of rice and water to the airports in Tacloban, on Leyte Island to the west, and Guiuan, on Samar Island. International relief organizations have been fanning out across the disaster zone. According to UNICEF, 13 million people have been affected by the typhoon.
The U.S. Navy says that aircraft from the carrier George Washington have flown 77 sorties and delivered 11 tons of water and medical supplies since it arrived on Thursday. Once on the ground, most of the aid is distributed by Philippine officials.
But while hard-hit urban areas are finally getting adequate supplies to stave off hunger and thirst, the region’s rural hinterland has been largely left to fend for itself in the week since Typhoon Haiyan hit.
On Saturday, members of a U.S. medical team touched down in Homonhon, a fishing island of 1,500 that was the first to bear the full brunt of Haiyan as it swept west. Margaret Aguirre, communications director for the team from the International Medical Corps, said it was the first help the residents had received since the storm struck. “They were in desperate shape,” she said, describing a range of untreated injuries and diseases, mostly advanced infections and ailments from a week of living unsheltered in the elements.
In Quinapondan, most people have been surviving on coconuts and camote, a sweet potato that residents have been digging up from their waterlogged fields.
safe water is in limited supply
Since the typhoon hit, Danny Estember has been hiking three hours round-trip into the mountains each day to obtain what he can only hope is clean water for his five daughters and two sons.
The journey is necessary because safe water is desperately scarce in this storm-ravaged portion of the Philippines. Without it, people struggling to rebuild and even survive risk catching intestinal and other diseases that can spread if they’re unable to wash properly.
While aid agencies work to provide a steady supply, survivors have resorted to scooping from streams, catching rainwater in buckets and smashing open pipes to obtain what is left from disabled pumping stations. With at least 600,000 people homeless, the demand is massive. “I’m thirsty and hungry. I’m worried — no food, no house, no water, no money,” said Estember, a 50-year-old ambulance driver.
Thousands of other people who sought shelter under the solid roof of the Tacloban City Astrodome also must improvise, taking water from wherever they can — a broken water pipe or a crumpled tarp. The water is salty and foul tasting, but it is all many have had for days.
Water provisioning should get a big boost with the recent arrival of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington, a virtual floating city with a distillation plant that can produce 400,000 gallons of fresh water per day — enough to supply 2,000 homes, said the ship’s website. Britain also is sending an aircraft carrier that has facilities to produce fresh water, but the ship is not expected to reach the area until Nov. 25.
How you can help
• Donate to the American Refugee Committee at American Refugee Committee, 615 First Avenue NE., Suite 500; Minneapolis, MN 55413; 612-872-7060 or www.arcrelief.org/typhoonrelief.
• Donate to the Philippine Red Cross at ushare.redcross.org.ph.
• Donate to the Philippine Minnesotan Medical Association at www.phmma.org/about.htm.
• Drop donations of food, clothing, blankets and other supplies at Philippine Center of Minnesota, 1380 Frost Av., Maplewood, or contact the center at 612-354-0837.
• The U.N. World Food Program seeks donations at www.wfpusa.org or by texting the word AID to 27722 to instantly donate $10.
• UNICEF donations can be made at www.unicef.org/support.
• Donate to the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org.
• Catholic Relief Services is accepting donations at www.emergencies.crs.org.
• World Vision is taking donations at www.worldvision.org.
• American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is taking donations at www.jdc.org or call 1-212-687-6200.
• Mercy Corps is taking contributions at www.mercycorps.org/typhoon or call 1-800-292-3355.
• AmeriCares donations can be made at www.americares.org or call 1-800-486-4357.
• Donations to Lutheran World Relief can be made at lwr.org.