Oxfam reaches survivors in the Philippines with life-saving water and sanitation

By Oxfam America

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BOSTON, MA – Oxfam, an international humanitarian relief and development organization, is continuing to reach more and more survivors in the Philippines with lifesaving water and sanitation aid.

“As the recovery continues in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, we’re working closely with partners to deliver water, basic sanitation, and plastic sheeting for emergency shelter while also planning to support households as they rebuild and assist in getting markets up and running again,” said Oxfam Philippines country director Justin Morgan.

The scale of the devastation is vast: 13 million people have been affected by the storm, 4 million are displaced and thousands are dead and missing. Homes, livelihoods and infrastructure have been destroyed across a huge area. The Philippines, a nation composed of more than 7,000 islands, was hit hard by multiple disasters this year before Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms to hit land in recorded history, wreaked its havoc.

“Many families hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan depend on farming and fishing to survive, industries that have been completely decimated by the storm,” said Morgan.  “A quick relief and reconstruction strategy that prioritizes low-income groups and reduces poverty and socio-economic inequalities will also ensure that the Philippines will be better prepared for disasters in future.”

Oxfam’s goal in the first phase of the emergency is to ensure that 20,000 families – about 100,000 people – have access to food, safe water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene materials. There are currently four Oxfam teams working in the affected areas of northern Cebu, Leyte and Eastern Samar. In Cebu, Oxfam has carried out a distribution of blankets, water-purification kits, and hygiene materials like soap, toothbrushes, and underwear.  In the hard-hit city of Tacloban in Leyte province, Oxfam and our local partners are working with local water authorities to fix damaged pipes and provide sanitation.

While efforts by aid organizations and governments alike reach greater numbers of survivors in the Philippines, there are changes stateside that could make aid delivery more efficient, and ultimately save more lives.

“The US government is mobilizing millions of dollars in aid to help save lives in the Philippines, including food aid,” said Michael Delaney, director of humanitarian response for Oxfam America. “But shockingly, the first shipment of US rice won’t arrive until December 6, and if subsequent shipments arrive during the next harvest they could displace farmers in the region who were unaffected by the storm. That’s because outdated regulations require most US food aid to be shipped from the United States—more than 11,000 nautical miles away from the Philippines— even though there is ample food available much closer, often at lower cost.”

“While debating the US farm bill in the weeks ahead, Congress must remove the layers of complexity in US food aid that put lives at risk and waste taxpayer dollars,” said Delaney.