U.N. and international agencies warn more than three weeks after Typhoon Odette struck the Philippines on December 16, millions of survivors remain in desperate need of emergency assistance.
The typhoon ripped across an enormous area in southern and central Philippines, about the size of Austria, razing thousands of houses and displacing more than 680,000 people.
Torrential rains, floods and fierce winds destroyed hospitals, damaged infrastructure, and knocked out water filtration systems, posing a health hazard for survivors.
The United Nations launched an emergency appeal two weeks ago for $107 million to provide emergency aid for more than half-a-million of the most vulnerable displaced Filipinos.
Since then, says World Food Program Philippines Country Director Brenda Barton, the number of people needing humanitarian aid has jumped from two million to seven million.
Speaking from the capital, Manila, she says many areas remain unreachable. Many, she says still are without telephone communications and electricity.
“One out of, I think 18 municipalities still do not have water. And, of course, we are seeing incidents of diarrhea coming up. We are seeing children begging off streets. UNFPA (UN Population Fund) is worried about sex trafficking, gender-based violence, etc. And, of course, we as a community are worried about nutrition emergencies setting in,” she expressed.
As part of the U.N. appeal, the World Food Program is asking for $25 million to cover food, logistics and telecom needs. Barton says the WFP has received only $4.7 million three weeks into this crisis.
“And the situation, of course, is being worsened now because we have continued rains. We have communities that cannot go into houses and are already in evacuation centers. And COVID, just like in other parts of the world is now, of course, starting to rip through the Philippines with its highly dense population,” she also noted.
Barton says the Philippine government is doing what it can to provide food, shelter, and other life-saving relief to its stricken population. However, she notes support from the international community is required.
She warns that without aid, many people will get ill and many will die. She says malnutrition rates among children will continue to rise.
If Typhoon Odette remains a forgotten crisis, she says many children will become stunted because of poor nutrition, impairing their growth and development.