Water, food and shelter priorities in coastal communities devastated by Phanfone: Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 27 Dec 2019

The devastation wrought by Typhoon Phanfone, which made seven landfalls in the Philippines between Christmas Eve and Day, has left an urgent need for humanitarian assistance, Oxfam and its partners say.

Oxfam Philippines Country Director Lot Felizco said many of the communities impacted by Typhoon Phanfone, known locally as Ursula, were still recovering from the impacts of Typhoon Kammuri (local name: Tisoy) and were in dire need of support.

“Oxfam is deeply concerned about the situation of communities hit by Typhoon Phanfone  which made seven landfalls in 24 hours beginning on Christmas Eve — usually a time for celebration and thanksgiving in the Philippines. Many of the communities are still struggling to get back on their feet in the wake of Typhoon Kammuri, which hit earlier this month,” Ms Felizco said.

Oxfam staff member Leah Payud, based in Leyte where the typhoon made one of its landfalls, described the devastation experienced by her community.

“Ursula carved the same path as Typhoon Haiyan in 2013,” Ms Payud said. “Although weaker, its devastating impacts are widely felt, especially here in Leyte, where houses have been damaged and electric posts toppled. We spent Christmas Day in total darkness.”

Oxfam is working closely with humanitarian organisation People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network (PDRRN) to assess the damage from the storm. Teams immediately visited four municipalities (towns) in Leyte and Eastern Samar, where Oxfam has ongoing projects.

According to Esteban Masagca, PDRRN Executive Director, early assessments by staff and volunteers indicate coastal villages urgently need emergency shelter materials, beddings, potable water and food. Power outages, loss of access to infrastructure such as schools and markets, and severe damage to houses along the shore also loom as serious problems post-disaster.

Mr Masagca said: “Families are urgently requesting emergency shelter-grade materials because the storm completely destroyed their homes along the coast. Families need beddings and mosquito nets, especially as dengue continues to be a major threat in the communities. Potable water is urgently needed since water-refilling stations cannot operate because of the ongoing power blackout. Water kits and disinfectants are crucial to prevent water-borne diseases since many sources of water have been contaminated. It truly saddens us that thousands of families will enter the New Year without food, or even homes.”

Ms Felizco said: “Families will need support during this time of great need. Oxfam and our partners are working closely with local government and other humanitarian actors to ensure the immediate needs of survivors are addressed effectively. We will prioritise the needs of women and girls throughout our emergency assessment and response.”

Oxfam has been working in the Philippines for 30 years to address the underlying causes of poverty through its various programs on economic justice, conflict transformation, gender justice and rights in crisis.

For interviews in Australia or the Philippines, please contact Amanda Banks on 0411 449 653 or amandab@oxfam.org.au