Typhoon Haiyan: Surviving at the Mercy of International Aid

BY KELSEY HAYDEN — Nations around the world have heard about the devastation caused by the typhoon that struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013. Fortunately, governments and non-government agencies have also heard the desperate cries of help from those that lived through one of the worst storms in history. However, the aid effort was delayed and not nearly enough to combat the amassing number of homeless, starving, and wounded survivors.

The United Nations humanitarian agency estimated that the number of people made homeless by the storm rose to 1.9 million. 1 The survivors walk among rubble and dead bodies that leak fetid liquid; many of these cadavers are recognizable to survivors as family members or close friends. 2 Hundreds more dead bodies are piled high in mass graves 3, buried under flattened buildings, or lying face down in the mud. 4 Stagnant water, lack of medicine, and no shelter pose a health threat to at least 56,000 people, 5 and there remain “millions of men, women and children who are still in desperate need” stated U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos. 6 Even one week after the destruction there are limited signs of help, especially in the remote rural islands. 7

This is not the first storm of its kind to strike the Philippines. Despite the unpredictable magnitude of the storm, it is a wonder how the Philippines government was not more prepared for the likeliness of a typhoon. Philippines President Benigno Aquino has been criticized for the slow and inadequate aid distribution. 8 The Philippines Social Welfare and Development Secretary, Corazon Soliman, acknowledged that the national relief response had been too slow to reach many affected areas. 9 This inadequate response by the Philippines and inability to provide help to its own citizens, left Philippine’s survivors at the mercy of international aid.

The United States has assisted in relief efforts. The United States military estimates it has provided 623,000 pounds of relief supplies to the Philippines, thus far. 10 Japan and Great Britain have also geared up to provide aid. 11 While these efforts are necessary for the survival and rebuilding of affected areas, the response was patchy and delayed. 12 The United States blames its slow response on “logistical problems” while Great Britain claims widespread infrastructure damage slowed its response. 13 Regardless, this catastrophe highlighted the need for international agencies to be more prepared for future natural disasters. 14

International pledges of aid continue to pour into Philippines disaster relief agencies. 15 Troops from across the world are being deployed to the stricken areas to distribute clean water, aid packages, and start the rebuilding process. Although the rebuilding process is predicted to take months, signs that relief efforts are picking up provide an air of optimism. 16 The presence of the U.S. military is reportedly the biggest indication of hope. 17 While the U.S. government has proven its ability to provide immediate domestic relief following natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, its recognition of the importance of international aid in the wake of disasters, and readiness to partake in humanitarian efforts, indicates its significance in the transnational community.

1 http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/16/us-philippines-typhoon-idUSBRE9A603Q20131116

2 http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/11/16/philippine-government-defends-response-to-typhoon-as-death-toll-rises

3 http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-in-philippines-typhoon-haiyan-victims-buried-in-communal-grave-20131116,0,2519760.story#axzz2krBVML8B

4 Id. http://www.democracynow.org/2013/11/11/unimaginable_devastation_as_philippines_hit_with

5 http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/philippines-homeless-from-typhoon-hits-1-9-million-1.2429083?cmp=rss

6 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-typhoon-philippines-20131117,0,3679285.story

7 Supra, note 1.

8 Id.

9 Id.

10 Id.

11 Supra, note 5.

12 Id.

13 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24970066

14 Supra, note 1.

15 http://www.dw.de/international-aid-trickles-into-philippines-in-aftermath-of-typhoon-haiyan/a-17226121

16 http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/after-typhoon-haiyan-guiuan-in-the-philippines-begins-rebuilding/2013/11/15/f1e1b650-4e33-11e3-ac54-aa84301ced81_story.html

17 http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/after-typhoon-haiyan-guiuan-in-the-philippines-begins-rebuilding/2013/11/15/f1e1b650-4e33-11e3-ac54-aa84301ced81_story.html

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