First Person

Water and other aid delivery moving forward in Philippines

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Oxfam distributed water purification chemicals and containers for storing clean water to more than 700 families in northern Cebu last Saturday. Photo by Jane Beesley/Oxfam

Some positive news from Tacloban in Leyte, the city we have seen on the news struggling to recover after typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda): The municipal water system is now functioning, despite massive damage from the storm.

Helen Szoke of Oxfam Australia reported from Tacloban, which she visited on Sunday. She says that movement around the city is improving, but still difficult:

“The drive into Tacloban was chilling. The destruction immediately outside of the airport entrance, shocking. The airport is on a narrow peninsula and the combination of the typhoon and the giant waves have ensured that nothing has been left untouched…”

“Our water and sanitation experts are already on the ground,” she reported. “They have a water treatment center up and running, and enough fuel to ensure that it will continue for a couple of weeks.”

Oxfam staff in Tacloban helped local authorities get the water system back on line, and now report that public health officials have checked the water quality and pronounced it to be properly treated. The next step will be to address water pressure problems, and stop the leaks in the storm-damaged system. Oxfam will be installing tap stands to help people access the water.

On the sanitation side, Oxfam is also supplying tools and hiring local workers to dig a temporary area to hold sewage, and starting to install temporary latrines.

We continue to get reports from Oxfam staff as they access more and more areas affected by the massive storm:

From Maylyn Pagatpatan, part of an Oxfam assessment team deployed to eastern Samar province: She says a few days after the storm she got to the village of Hernani, a fishing village of 200 families almost entirely wiped out by the typhoon. She reports that Oxfam distributed fresh water in Hernani, and interviewed survivors to learn more about what it will take to address their immediate and longer-term recovery.

Pagatpatan reports that she met with Gerardo Yapi, a 60-year-old fisherman and father of four: “He had just finished building a temporary shelter for his family by using scrap materials from destroyed houses and structures that were scattered all over. The shelter was made of iron sheets and lumber… ‘Typhoon Yolanda destroyed my two pump boats,” he said, referring to the traditional outrigger canoes most fishermen in the area use. ‘Can you give me one so I can start earning my livelihood?’”

She said that “The families affected by Typhoon Yolanda in the village are trying to get their lives back. They said they wanted to return to fishing and farming activities as soon as possible to earn income for their families.”

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