Typhoon Hagupit: isolated Filipinos need help

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Torrential rain, gigantic waves and violent winds: this was what Typhoon Hagupit brought to the eastern Filipino province of Samar. In the aftermath of Typhoon Hagupit, which hit the Philippines on Dec. 7, Handicap International’s teams are providing relief to the Filipinos living in the isolated villages in this hardest-hit province.

"A wave around six-to-nine feet high swept across the coast, destroying the homes of the fishermen from villages along the sea front,” explains Marlène Dussauge, Field Coordinator for Handicap International. “The storm ripped off corrugated iron roofs, brought down trees, and cut off the electricity supply. There were no means of communication. Thousands of people lost everything they had, and today are left with nothing."

Many displaced families are still living in evacuation centers, in schools and churches for example, or have been taken in by relatives. In order to provide the victims of the disaster with the assistance they require, Handicap International is working in the municipalities of Villareal and Talalora, located in south-west Samar.

Priority needs

Handicap International’s teams have been out to four barangays—small villages—in Talalora and seven in Villareal in order to assess the population's essential needs.

"Reaching the villages is no mean feat,” Dussauge explains. “The communications systems are all down and the villages are flooded. We had to travel by boat. This boat was also made available to the local fishermen who lost theirs in the storm. In these municipalities, the means of transport are very limited and many people cannot get to health centers or to the market to buy food.

"The most critical need for the affected populations was access to food. The local authorities are therefore organizing food distributions. It really is vital."

A second essential need is to provide people with shelter. Indeed, in the barangays of Villareal and Talalora, Handicap International found that the Typhoon partially or totally destroyed between 60% and 90% of homes. Road clearance is another top priority. Finally, it is vital that people are helped to recover their ability to work and earn money.

"A lot of the fishermen have lost everything, even their crab traps,” Dussauge says. “They need to be helped to return to work.”


Immediate intervention

The treatment of minor wounds is critical. Dussauge notes, "after the storm, lots of people walked over debris, stepping on nails, or had corrugated iron fall on their feet." Working with a team of nurses, "we bandage their wounds to avoid infection and advise them to go to the Rural Health Unit in Villareal if there is a medical risk."

The association has also made clearance equipment, such as chainsaws, available to the local authorities who then organize distributions in the villages.

In the coming days, Handicap International will support the Rural Health Unit, notably by providing consultation tables and life-jackets so that health care workers can reach flooded villages. The association will also distribute emergency shelter kits, including tarps, ropes, and tools, to allow families to build temporary shelters.

Handicap International is also assessing the need for a longer-term intervention, as well as for a specific intervention to help its beneficiaries in the Tacloban area, which was so badly affected by the passage of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.