Philippines-US relations

US announces P1-billion aid for Typhoon Odette victims

Herbie Gomez, Roel Catoto
US announces P1-billion aid for Typhoon Odette victims

CHAOS. General Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte on December 22, 2021.

Photo by Albert Lozada/Greenpeace

Heather Variava, chargé d’affaires, ad interim, of the US embassy in Manila says the fund would provide more food aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene programs, and shelter assistance to meet emergency needs and help affected communities as they start rebuilding

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The United States on Wednesday, December 29, announced an additional aid of P950 million ($19 million) to boost relief and rehabilitation efforts in Mindanao and Visayas regions crippled during the December 16 onslaught of Typhoon Odette (Rai).

The announcement brings US assistance to the Philippines to over P1 billion ($20.2 million) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Heather Variava, chargé d’affaires, ad interim, of the US embassy in Manila said: “The United States is pleased to announce additional and significant assistance of P950 million, which brings our total amount of aid for Typhoon Odette to over P1 billion. We stand steadfast with our long-standing friend, partner, and ally in helping support communities devastated by the typhoon.”

Variava said the fund would provide more food aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene programs, and shelter assistance to meet emergency needs and help affected communities as they start rebuilding.

The P950-million aid is on top of P50 million ($1 million) set aside to strengthen emergency logistics efforts especially in outlying areas in Mindanao and the Visayas, and the P10 million ($200,000) which the US already gave for food, water, and hygiene supplies with the help of the United Nations World Food Programme and its partner Action Against Hunger.

The US is also helping to speed up work to restore water supply services and sanitation facilities in Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands.

Odette made its first two landfalls on Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte and the neighboring province of Dinagat Islands on the afternoon of December 16 before it unleashed its fury in the Visayas.

The WFP is providing logistics and emergency telecommunications support to augment the government’s capacity to respond to areas devastated by the typhoon. Four of the emergency logistics hubs were being set up in typhoon-struck Surigao del Norte province.

The US Embassy Information Office told Rappler that the WFP would deploy mobile operation vehicles to serve as telecommunications bases in disaster-affected areas as requested by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). 

These would supply critical telecommunications equipment, including locally purchased satellite phones and very small aperture terminal (VSATS) to reestablish telecommunications networks for the UN, nongovernmental organizations, and other local groups helping in the relief and rehabilitation efforts. 

The US embassy said that the International Organization for Migration is also helping manage evacuation shelters in Caraga and Eastern Visayas, and providing relief supplies, including enough heavy-duty plastic sheeting, for some 4,800 families.  

In Siargao, General Luna Mayor Cecilia Rusillon met with a group helping in relief and rehabilitation efforts on Tuesday, December 28, and told them, “We are all in this battle, and we thank you for your unwavering effort to help our constituents who are suffering from this crisis.”

Rusillon said they were consolidating and optimizing all resources.

But she said General Luna town, the main tourism hub of Siargao, was facing another threat as the water crisis caused by Odette started a diarrhea outbreak on Siargao Island.

At least 10 people already died due to diarrhea after drinking water from the wells, according to Surigao del Norte Governor Francisco Matugas.

Dr. TJ Manalang, General Luna’s municipal health officer, said over a hundred people, many of them children, were crammed in a local hospital due to diarrhea.

Several private groups in Surigao del Norte were also helping in the ongoing relief efforts.

“We’re doing non-stop relief aid distribution in the villages,” said Christine Carby of Nissi Academy, whose group established a food hub in General Luna with the help of Green House-Kudo Surf.

Volunteer relief worker Maria Czarina Crisostomo said other groups have taken over several water refilling stations and have provided power generators and logistical support to bring potable water to Siargao’s villages.

Crisostomo said they were working closely with the Department of Health “to make sure our water is safe so we can fight this outbreak.” – Rappler.com