UN: Aid must reach survivors faster

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Aid is coming, but not fast enough.

United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos on Thursday, November 14, said she shared the frustration of victims of the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan) over the slow delivery of aid to affected areas.

"We need to get assistance to them now. They are already saying it has taken too long to arrive. Ensuring a faster delivery is our... immediate priority," Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said in a press briefing in Manila.

Criticism is growing that help is taking too long to arrive in Tacloban City and other areas that were splintered by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) when it swept through the Visayas on Friday, November 8.

Despite the outpour of humanitarian support from the international community, Amos admitted she felt that victims have been let down by the slow delivery of necessary services after the storm.

"We are extremely distressed that it's already day 6 and we have not managed to reach everyone," Amos said. "We have staff on the ground in Tacloban and they are personally concerned that they have not been able to get to people, resources down to Tacloban and other areas more quickly and it's a frustration that I share because the job that I have is to recognize that yes, the challenges exist but my job is to try to overcome that."

More than 15 countries all over the world have pledged to help the disaster-stricken provinces in the central Philippines. As of Thursday, the country has received at least P3.8B in humanitarian aid.

Six days after Yolanda left the country, bodies still litter the streets of Tacloban, while others lie putrefying in body bags outside the broken city hall, awaiting mass burials.

Thousands of desperate survivors are clamoring to get out of a place where clean drinking water is in short supply and many have no shelter.

'Operations scaling up'

Although help has yet to reach certain areas, Amos said she sees a ray of hope coming in the next 48 hours.

"I can see and I was able to see yesterday that our operations are scaling up significantly," Amos said.

As of Thursday, UN humanitarian operations have reached Iloilo, Ormoc, Roxas City and Busuanga in Palawan, aside from Tacloban, said David Carden, head of the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Other priority areas for the United Nations include the town of Guiuan, one of the hardest hit areas in Eastern Samar and towns around Tacloban City.

"it's true, there are still areas that we have not been able to get to where people are in desperate need," Amos said. "We very much hope in the next 48 hours that that will change significantly."

But Amos admitted that UN may not be able to reach all areas affected by the storm.

"I do have to emphasize that our priority is those people who are vulnerable and most in need. There are thousands of them but we would never make the claim that we could get to everyone," Amos said.

On Wednesday, November 13, President Benigno Aquino III said about 2,000 to 2500 people died from the storm but estimates from local government units and aid workers on the ground estimate the death toll could reach up 10,000.

Meanwhile, 1,732,477 families or 8,007,200 individuals continue to be affected as of Wednesday, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. – With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com