MANILA, Philippines - The scale of destruction and death which Typhoon Pablo left in Mindanao astounded the humanitarian team of the United Nations in the country.
"So many people have been killed. Many, many people have been affected," Imogen Wall, designated United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) specialist for communicating with affected communities, told Rappler.
At least 1,077,541 families or 5,317,275 people have been affected by the deadly Typhoon "Pablo," according to OCHA's latest estimates.
"I can't remember seeing such extensive damage in agriculture and crops in other places where I have worked. This is very severe," Wall added.
To date, the cost of damage to agriculture and infrastructure by typhoon Pablo has reached about P4 billion, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
As early as Thursday, December 6, the UN offered the Aquino government humanitarian assistance to respond to the needs of affected areas.
Upon the advice of the NDRRMC, President Benigno Aquino III accepted the offer on Friday, December 7, in a meeting with Luiza Carvalho, the new UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for the Philippines, and other UN personnel in the country.
"The UN met with the President yesterday, and, yes, he asked for assistance in all sectors of this response. Yes, we are mobilizing (resources)," Wall told Rappler.
On Saturday, December 8, Aquino declared a national state of calamity which "necessitates that the mechanisms for international humanitarian assistance are implemented" according to law.
Wall did not disclose the amount of assistance UN will provide but said it will be announced in the next couple of days.
"We have no figure at the moment. We are working right now on putting together a properly coordinated and comprehensive document which outlines all the needs and everything that we will be asking money for," Wall said.
Wall added that the UN team in the country is also working on another proposal "which will contain additional projects for specific response to [the effects] of Pablo."
"We are asking for extra money and we will mobilize this support," Wall said.
Until Aquino's acceptance of the humanitarian assistance, the UN's primary support was only limited to primary information management and needs assessment undertaken with government agencies.
"We work very closely with the government particularly with the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development). We are liaising directly with the President," Wall added.
To date, various foreign donors have already pledged to provide financial assistance to the humanitarian response, according to the OCHA:
Based on the rapid assessment the UN conducted with the government, the key needs in the affected areas include water and sanitation, food, and emergency shelter.
Wall stressed the need for the protection of children especially those who have lost their families.
In the long run, support for agriculture will also be provided, according to Wall.
"If they lose their crops, they lose their capacity to care for themselves and their children," Wall said.
"It is very important to remember that where they are at the monument, the people need emergency assistance, that's really very important. But we are with these communities, these regions, in the months to come so that they can get their livelihood back," Wall added.
Continuing rain, inaccessibility of areas and logistical constraints impede fast delivery of assistance to affected communities, according to Wall, who is in Compostela Valley with the UN humanitarian team. - Rapper.com