One month on from Typhoon Haiyan, the aid effort has helped millions to survive – but gaps remain

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 07 Dec 2013

One month after super typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines, a new Oxfam report released today finds that a rapid response and generous international assistance has helped millions of people, but the relief and recovery effort has a long way to go – with many, especially in rural and hard to reach areas, still in need of emergency aid.

The report, Typhoon Haiyan – The Response So Far and Vital Lessons for Recovery, also asks governments around the world, including in Australia, to ensure a strong reconstruction effort that prioritises disaster risk reduction in the Philippines, a country that is currently ranked third most at risk nation in the world from disaster.

As Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop this weekend assesses the damage wrought by the typhoon, Oxfam’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the Australian Government’s quick contribution of $30 million had made a real difference in getting aid and assistance to those who needed it most in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon.

“Thanks to this support, and the generosity of the Australian public in donating to our appeal, Oxfam has now been able to reach a quarter of a million people with aid, including helping to restore Tacloban’s water supply,” Dr Szoke said.

“However, with nearly three million people relying on food assistance, and four million people homeless and in need of shelter, there are clearly still massive needs. There are also risks for vulnerable groups such as women and children. The need to accelerate and expand the aid effort is indisputable.

“Our main concern now is reaching rural communities who have not received anything like adequate assistance yet, and making sure communities are able to quickly rebuild their homes, infrastructure and livelihoods.”

With the UN expected to launch an updated, longer term Haiyan Action Plan and Emergency Appeal early next week, Dr Szoke said the response and reconstruction efforts must not rebuild the same risks all over again.

“Re-construction should be ‘risk proofed’ through improved construction standards and materials, and better urban and land-use planning,” Dr Szoke said.

“International investment in disaster risk reduction in the Philippines – a country that is hit by around 20 typhoons a year – should be substantially increased, and with a greater emphasis on tackling the poverty that makes many people more vulnerable.

“Australia has been a strong supporter of disaster risk reduction efforts in the Philippines and throughout the Asia-Pacific but, along with other countries, it needs to scale up this investment going forward, to make sure those authorities and organisations at the frontline of any disaster response are better equipped to deal with future disasters.

“The underlying poverty and inequality that made people vulnerable lie at the heart of why the communities in the Philippines were so severely hit. Addressing these issues in a way that will make these communities more resilient to future disasters must be a priority as the country goes forward.”

To donate to Oxfam’s Typhoon Appeal, please phone 1800 034 034 or go to  Donations can also be made via Oxfam Shops.

For interviews or copies of the report, please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801