Oxfam Pilipinas echoed local officials in Eastern Visayas calling for immediate assistance for survivors of Super Typhoon Rai (local name: Odette).
Super Typhoon Rai, which is the strongest tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, has resulted in the deaths of 208 people as of December 20, according to the Philippine National Police. Most of the deaths come from Central Visayas, followed by Caraga, Western Visayas , Northern Mindanao and Eastern Visayas. The latest report of the Department of Social Welfare and Development showed that 1.8 million people across 9 regions in the Philippines were affected by the super typhoon.
Oxfam Pilipinas staff located in Eastern Visayas said that in Matalom, Leyte, 90% of the infrastructure and properties in the town have been destroyed, affecting 36,000 people. Photos of the community posted by Oxfam showed that residents have resorted to bathing and doing laundry in the river because electricity and water supply have yet to be restored.
In Brgy. Matapay in Hilongos, Leyte, 210 houses were totally damaged while 700 families were affected. Residents of the two mentioned areas are now calling for food, water and shelter kits. The mayor of Maasin City, Southern Leyte, where 47,030 residents were affected, is also seeking donations of food, water, hygiene kits, sleeping mats, tents and materials to repair houses.
“It is our first time to experience such strong winds brought by the typhoon and it devastated almost all of the households, almost all of the barangays,” Maas in City Mayor Nacional Mercado told Oxfam. Mercado said their city only had one casualty since most residents evacuated before the typhoon made landfall but 1,677 houses were totally destroyed and 2,182 were partially damaged.
Oxfam Pilipinas’ Resilience Portfolio Manager Leah Payud, who hails from Eastern Visayas, likened the impact of Super Typhoon Rai to that of Super Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) in 2013,especially since it caused widespread damage to property and agriculture, which in turn affected the lives and livelihood of people. Payud said she was also reminded about how many areas are unable to receive adequate resources.
“Many areas here in Leyte and Southern Leyte are badly hit by the typhoon and need immediate attention. People are strugglingto find food, water, and other necessities. People who had cash had to line up for more than three hours to withdraw, ”Payud said. She pointed out that far-flung and remote areas should be prioritized, especially since they are farthest from city centers and sources of relief goods.
Oxfam Pilipinas' Lot Felizco said they are hoping that the national government, private sector and non-government organizations can work together to make the relief and recovery process quicker and more efficient.
“Besides the loss of shelter and livelihood due to the typhoon, residents also have to worry about the risks of COVID-19 in evacuation centers. The sooner we disseminate aid such as shelter kits and repair materials, the safer it will be for our kababayans,” Felizco said. “It is also important to ensure the dignity of typhoon survivors. They should not be made to beg for aid,” she said, pointing out that there are already reports and photos of residents holding up signs on the street, asking for food and aid.
Last week, Oxfam and partner humanitarian groups distributed P4 million to 2,650 families in Eastern Samar as pre-disaster financial aid before Typhoon Odette struck. The anticipatory action was meant to help families prepare food, water, medicine, transportation to evacuation centers and even shelter repair materials in advance.
Oxfam is an international confederation of organizations seeking to build a future free from the injustice of poverty. Oxfam Pilipinas has been distributing food, water, medical help, livelihood, sanitation facilities and other forms of support to communities affected by conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic and other calamities in the Philippines for the past 30 years.