Oxfam: race against time to reach communities devastated by Typhoon Haiyan

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 12 Nov 2013

Oxfam is gearing up its aid efforts and aims to raise $17 million after one of the worst natural disasters to hit the Philippines in years.

The aid agency is looking to reach half a million people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said:  “This is one of the worst natural disasters in years to hit the region and it will be a race against time to get help to the communities that have been devastated.”

Oxfam’s rapid assessment teams have been deployed to Samar, Leyte and Northern Cebu to provide emergency supplies of water, sanitation and shelter.

An aid shipment from the UK is expected to be dispatched within the next 48 hours.

“Our main concern is getting relief to the worst affected areas. Because communications are down the real extent of this horrific disaster is still not known,” Dr Szoke said.

New reports from Oxfam’s rapid assessment team in Tacloban, one of the hardest hit provinces of Leyte, confirm 100 per cent of the city is devastated.

There is no running water or electricity. People are taking desperate measures, like trying to puncture water pipes, to get water.

A mother with two small children, who works selling fish with her fisherman husband, told Oxfam it was like a tsunami when the storm hit: 

 “Many storms have passed here. But we did not expect a storm that brought a ‘tsunami’ with it. We only know of rain and wind. We did not expect the sea would devour the land.”

She has received a food pack containing 3 kilos of rice, sardines and corned beef. She expects to use this up within two days. 

 “We have nothing to go back to. We can’t fish. It’s dark and there are dead bodies floating in the sea.”

Current estimates are that 4.46 million people – nearly 1 million families – from 36 provinces have been affected and more than 10,000 people are thought to have lost their lives.

The most urgent needs are for food, water and shelter. Communities also need to have power and communications restored and roads need to be cleared so that aid can get through.

Oxfam aims to help 500,000 people affected.  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