The Philippines: How to help

With such a strong community of Filipinos – some of the sweetest people I know – in our compound, we watched in horror as Typhoon Haiyan slammed into six central Philippine islands just over a week ago.

By the time the first heartbreaking images of the devastation caused by the world’s most powerful storm flashed up on our TV screens, the agonising wait had already begun. Our housekeeper knew her family was safe (they live in a different part of the country), but many Filipinos residing in the UAE had no idea if their loved ones were still alive.

The aftermath: Children beg for food from passing motorists in Borbon town, Cebu. Photo from NBC News
The aftermath: Children beg for food from passing motorists in Borbon town, Cebu. Photo from NBC News

My friend’s housekeeper, V, from the island that was hit first, faced the longest few days of her life. All forms of communication were down and, while she was hoping for the best (her town was inland and surrounded by trees), her distress was immense. The anguish on her face spoke volumes.

Finally, several days later, she received word from her uncle that her family had survived the storm. He travelled to her hometown to check on her parents and niece – they’d lost the roof on their house, but were, thankfully, unharmed.

For others living far from their families, the news won’t be so good. And, now, as aid workers distribute food and water and provide emergency shelter, attention is turning – as it does after any natural disaster – to avoiding a health crisis. Waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid are always the biggest fear.

Beautiful islands: This photo, of Coron in Palawan (where the typhoon exited on its way to Vietnam), was taken in April this year by my friend Jenny. She was in the Philippines at the time of the storm, but to our great relief was out of harm’s way

I know for a fact that people around the world have been deeply moved by the decimation caused by Typhoon Haiyan. Another friend’s update on Facebook said it all:

“A terrible tragedy for a country full of lovely people, which already has so much to deal with.”

And I do think that, here in the UAE, we have a special, and for many, very personal, reason to reach out. People are the Philippines’ biggest export, and 700,000 have travelled to the UAE to work. The majority are employed in our service industry.

Not only are they the gentle people who keep our households ticking over, but – as this post on Expat Telegraph highlights – they’re the hard-working “waiters and waitresses, the drivers, the paramedics, the lifeguards, the nail salon technicians, the school bus attendants, the classroom assistants, the receptionists, the shop assistants, the nurses.”

Let’s do what we can to help their families and fellow countrymen, in the typhoon-ravaged parts of the eastern Philippines. Here’s how:

Emergency Appeal – UNICEF Philippines Donation Portal: Children affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda need your help.

The Philippine Red Cross: 100 local outposts have been mobilised to help with relief efforts.

International Medical Corps: The organisation has deployed an emergency response team of medical personnel and sanitation experts to the Philippines and is accepting donations in order to ship medicine, clean water and food.

Doctors Without Borders’ Emergency Response Fund: As well as sending teams of doctors, nurses, surgeons, psychologists and sanitation experts, nine cargo planes loaded with water, sanitation and medical supplies are being dispatched.

World Food Programme: Donations are being sought for emergency food assistance. The organisation is mobilising quickly to reach those in need with high-energy (and nutritious) biscuits.

The Philippine government said on Monday that nearly 4,000 are known to have died. Four million are displaced.

Remote: Taken by Jenny’s husband, this shot is the view from a restaurant built on a mangrove, in an area of environmental sustainability. What a beautiful country – it’s so sad it’s suffered so much. Haiyan was the second category 5 typhoon to strike the Philippines this year.

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