TYPHOON EMERGENCY RESPONSE: An exceptional response to the disaster
- Less than two weeks after typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, Handicap International has deployed an emergency response team of around fifteen expatriates, sent out to reinforce the teams already working in the country.
- Several tens of tons of freight, composed of emergency kits and drinking water filter pumps, have been sent to the country.
- From now on Handicap International’s top priorities are to facilitate access to the areas which are still isolated (logistics platform), to prevent the onset of disabilities (health care for the injured) and to meet people’s basic needs (distributions).
- Handicap International is also preparing a second intervention phase, aimed at helping the population of the Philippines start reconstruction work.
Over 13 million people affected
The typhoon swept across part of the Philippines on the 8th November. The consequences are immeasurable. According to the United Nations , over 13.2 million people have been affected in a country with 92 million inhabitants. Nine regions have been particularly severely affected, 4.4 million people have been displaced, and over one million homes damaged or entirely destroyed. “We have been able to access the region of Tacloban where certain neighbourhoods have been abandoned as the survivors have sought refuge elsewhere, in villages which are still intact. The typhoon swept across a large swathe of land over which everything has been devastated, the damage is extensive,” recounts Brice Blondel from Handicap International.
Emergency kits dispatched by plane
As soon as the disaster occurred, Handicap International sent out contingency supplies it had stocked in Dubai and Lyon. These emergency kits contain enough tents, blankets, cooking equipment etc. to meet the essential needs of 750 families, i.e. 4,400 people, who have lost everything. Four DVFP kits , were also subsequently sent out to set up focal points where people can obtain treatment for minor injuries and refer the most vulnerable people to the appropriate structures. At the same time, a load of 50 drinking water filter pumps has also been sent out from London. These pumps can filter up to 300 litres of water an hour each.
With its extensive experience in logistics, Handicap International is currently preparing to deploy a logistics platform in the Leyte sector, to supply humanitarian aid to the most isolated zones. “When conventional transport systems are down, it is vital that alternative flexible and adaptable solutions and logistics services are put into place. Our platform will allow all the NGOs working in affected areas to ensure the humanitarian aid reaches their beneficiaries,” explains Hélène Robin, Handicap International’s Head of Emergency Response for the Philippines. “This will strengthen other NGOs' responses, notably by ensuring distributions to isolated populations.”
At the start of this week, our emergency response teams were able to visit several hospitals in order to identify the needs in terms of emergency rehabilitation. It is vital, that in the wake of the disaster, people with injuries are provided with care immediately, in order to limit the onset of long-term disabilities.
In addition to rehabilitation care, the association could rapidly put into place distributions of walking aids to help with the mobility of people with injuries or disabilities, who have lost everything in the disaster.
Preparation for the second phase
The initial emergency phase must be rapidly followed by a post-emergency phase to help families rebuild. Handicap International is therefore preparing for this essential phase, which will involve cash for work schemes for the clean-up (although the authorities have cleared and cleaned up the main routes, entire areas of the country are still covered in debris). The association could also manage the reconstruction of shelters, either directly, or again through cash for work schemes.
Back up from a dedicated emergency team
In normal circumstances, Handicap International’s teams in the Philippines are made up of 70 employees. In the first few days following the typhoon, back up for these teams arrived in the form of emergency response specialists, used to working in crisis contexts and to being deployed on a few days' notice to help the most vulnerable and fragile populations. This back up includes logisticians to work on the supply of aid, physiotherapists to provide care for the injured and an accessibility specialist whose valuable expertise is being used to help ensure people with disabilities are not excluded from accessing humanitarian aid.
Super Typhoon Haiyan: Handicap International sends emergency team to the Philippines
“Ensuring the most vulnerable individuals are able to access aid”
Handicap International is today (November 11) sending a team of emergency specialists to the Philippines in response to the disaster now gripping the country. They will complement the work already being done by the organisation’s teams in the field. The specialists will case-manage the most vulnerable individuals, such as people with disabilities, older people and children, who are particularly at risk in this type of situation.
Handicap International’s team in the Philippines is ready to travel to the areas worst affected by the typhoon to assess needs on the ground; a team of three humanitarian emergency specialists is leaving France today to join them.
“Like most other NGOs, we have unfortunately not yet been able to visit the worst affected areas,” explains Edith van Wijngaarden, Handicap International’s Field Programme Director in the Philippines. “Three days after the disaster, only military flights are landing in Tacloban, a town in the centre of the country, and one of the worst hit by the storm. However, it’s important that Handicap International’s emergency team accesses the area as soon as possible to make sure highly vulnerable individuals are not left behind.”
Under these kinds of circumstances, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups are at even greater risk than before. As part of its emergency response, the organisation will identify vulnerable individuals, help them access humanitarian aid, meet their specific needs (crutches, wheelchairs, etc.) and help provide rehabiliation care for people with disabilities and the injured.
Present in the Philippines since 1985, Handicap International operates development and risk reduction programmes in several areas of the country. The contingency plans and evacuation procedures implemented as part of risk reduction operations help alleviate the impact of natural disasters. Handicap International has deployed emergency teams during previous hurricanes in the Philippines and benefits from extensive experience in the field.
New Document: A STUDY ON THE DISABILITY INCLUSION PROCESS IN THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE TO TROPICAL STORM WASHI
While natural disasters affect a large number of individuals, PWD tend to be more affected than others during such situations and often face bigger challenges in order to cope with the situation and survive. Due to their specific situations, they risk being excluded and invisible during response activities, and they often face additional barriers in accessing support and relief efforts. In an emergency context, their original vulnerability is greatly compounded, bringing about the risk of their vulnerability increasing.
PWD also have specific needs that are not always taken into account by response activities. Although they have the very same basic needs as everyone else, meeting these specific needs may be critical to prevent their condition from deteriorating and allow them equal access to basic emergency relief. Examples of specific needs can include the need for assistive devices or technical aids, additional nutrition requirements, medical care specific to certain conditions, adapted physical environments, and the like.
Handicap International with the support of the Australian Government agency conduct a study to provide a broad picture of what the disability inclusion process was like in the Washi response, examining how the immediate response took into account the specific situation and needs of PWD as well as the current attitudes and perceptions surrounding disability inclusion in emergencies. The results gleaned from the study and their analysis was utilized to formulate seven recommendations towards the improved inclusion of disability in subsequent disaster response.
- Improve awareness and understanding of disability
- Increase capacities for disability inclusive emergency response
- Improve data collection on disability
- Involve PWD
- Create referral systems for the specific needs of PWD
- Regulate and monitor disability inclusion
- Increase advocacy at all levels
Click here for the full report.
BRINGING HUMANITARIAN RELIEF TO THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST
The magnitude of the humanitarian crisis caused by typhoon Washi on Mindanao Island – in the South of the Philippines – caught everybody off guard, killing over 1,000 people. Handicap International teams present on site are responding to the emergency.
“No one was expecting this, explains Catherine Vasseur, head of Handicap International operations in the country. Tropical storms are common in the country, but the places hit this time – Cagayan de Oro and Iligan city – are not normally affected, and the people living there were not prepared for such a disaster.” The combination of extreme rainfalls and high tide led rivers to overflow; creating massive streams of water which devastated tens of kilometres of land.
One week after the floods, people are still in shock and relief operations still struggling to organize effectively. Handicap International has mobilized all available resources immediately to conduct an initial assessment of the situation in Cagayan De Oro where emergency kits (hygiene and emergency shelter kits, mobility aids ...) from Manila should arrive in the next few days. "In times like those, you always want things to go faster and we do everything we can so that relief is available promptly and distributed to those who need it most, says Catherine. But the organization of humanitarian operations takes time. It's a very frustrating situation."
The human scale and the specific mandate of Handicap International allows the association to deploy very quickly but also to specifically target the most affected people, including people with disabilities and people made vulnerable by their isolation, age, gender, or social status. Through its participation to the international humanitarian response Handicap International intends to ensure that aid actually reaches those who need it most.
"Everyone is mobilized"
Present in the Philippines for over 20 years, Handicap International had established rapid response procedures that were activated after the disaster. The association also relies on its knowledge of the region and the availability of its staff to maximize its responsiveness and efficiency. "Everyone is mobilized. On the day of the disaster I received calls from all the staff, which was on leave for Christmas holidays, and made itself available to organize our response. Even people who had worked with us in the past contacted me to offer their assistance."
Beyond the immediate response, the evaluation carried out these past days will determine the action of the association in the coming months including the opportunity to set up disability and vulnerability focal points to ensure the access of all to humanitarian aid.
"The problem is that those who are physically weak can hardly go to evacuation centres and access humanitarian aid. It's paradoxical, but it is often those who need it the most who struggle to receive assistance. We are determined to change this situation and we will do what it takes to assist those persons and to ensure that our partners in the humanitarian response take everybody into account."