Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive flies to Philippines to assist in massive relief effort

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 13 Nov 2013

Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Helen Szoke flies to the Philippines this morning to assist in the agency’s massive relief effort that aims to reach half a million people.

Dr Szoke will fly to Cebu, which has been devastated by the Typhoon Haiyan, with homes and infrastructure destroyed.

Immediate needs on the ground remain food, shelter, water and basic sanitation. Oxfam will start programs in Cebu, Eastern Samar and Leyte aiming to reach 20,000 vulnerable families in the first phase and 500,000 in the longer term.

There are 11.3 million people affected and more than 700,000 people are displaced. Latest figures from local authorities say that more than 40,000 houses have been damaged but Oxfam expects the number to be much higher.

Dr Szoke said Oxfam’s assessment team in northern Cebu had reported families drinking salty water, as they had no electricity to run their water pipes.

“Like most disasters, Typhoon Haiyan has hit the poorest and most vulnerable people the hardest,” she said.

“The affected provinces are poorer than the national average, with about four out of 10 families living below the poverty line before the disaster hit.  Most of these people have no savings and will have lost all their assets.”

She said the international community should quickly provide enough assistance to save lives now as well as sustained support afterwards to help recovering communities rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

“We welcome the Australian Governments initial $10 million contribution but urge it to dig deeper due to the enormous scale of this tragedy,” Dr Szoke said.

Despite the challenges, Oxfam is sending a vehicle to the affected areas with some supplies and aims to start initial distributions for emergency water supply in the next day or two.  Cargo from the Oxfam’s warehouse in the UK will be shipped direct to Cebu.

Around 16 tonnes of aid worth close to $214,000 will be shipped as soon as possible.

To donate to Oxfam’s Typhoon Appeal, please phone 1800 034 034 or go to www.oxfam.org.au

For interviews, please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801 or laurellek@oxfam.org.au