Philippine typhoon survivors beg for food

The Philippines is ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change and sees an average of 20 storms a year. – EPA pic, December 23, 2021.

JENNIFER Vetonio stands on a road begging for food and money from passing drivers in the southern Philippines.

She has not received a scrap of government aid a week after Super Typhoon Rai destroyed her house.

Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless after the typhoon cut a swathe through the vast archipelago last Thursday, knocking out power across entire islands and leaving desperate survivors pleading for help.

“We do not have food. My baby has no diapers or milk,” said the 23-year-old in the devastated city of Surigao, on the northern tip of Mindanao.

“I hope the government will help us – even a little aid will help us recover,” she added, holding a plastic bottle with the top cut off that she uses to collect alms from motorists.

The military, coast guard and humanitarian organisations have ramped up efforts to get food, drinking water and temporary shelter to the hardest-hit islands.

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a state of calamity in typhoon-affected areas, where at least 375 people were killed, freeing up funds for relief efforts and giving local officials power to control prices.

But the scale of the destruction, lack of mobile phone signal or internet in many areas and depleted government coffers after the Covid-19 response are hampering efforts to distribute aid.

The damage caused by Rai has been likened to Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Bohol, Dinagat, Mindanao and Siargao islands are among the most devastated by the storm, which tore off roofs, shredded wooden buildings, felled concrete power poles and uprooted trees.

“So many houses were destroyed,” said Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon.

“Destruction is destruction. It is just the cycle of poverty all over again.”

‘Back to square one’

Rai hit the Philippines late in the typhoon season: most cyclones develop between July and October.

State weather forecaster Anna Cloren said it intensified faster than expected, and initial data showed that it has dumped more rain than Haiyan.

Scientists have long warned that typhoons are strengthening more swiftly as the world becomes warmer because of human-driven climate change.

The Philippines – ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change – is hit by an average of 20 storms a year.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to have made landfall, leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing.

Rai’s death toll is not expected to get anywhere close to that number.

The national disaster agency today said more than 500,000 people are still in evacuation centres or sheltering with relatives.

Thousands of acres of crops have been wiped out, fishing communities devastated and tourism operators left with no livelihood.

Long queues of people waiting to refill empty water drums or fill up motorbike fuel tanks have been seen across the affected regions.

“Humanitarian gaps and needs are high across all sectors, and the humanitarian situation may further deteriorate if these needs are not immediately addressed,” warned the United Nations’ humanitarian office.

“On the first day we got maybe a kilo of rice each,” said Maria Consumo, 41, who is six months pregnant and begging for handouts on the side of a road near Surigao City.

“We think they give priority to Siargao,” she said, referring to the popular tourist destination where Rai made landfall packing wind speeds of 195km per hour.

Marites Sotis, 53, said most of her coconut trees were knocked down by the storm and it will take years to grow more.

“We are back to square one.” – AFP, December 23, 2021.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.