Typhoon victims in Philippines still hungry, despite arrival of relief goods

2013-11-14 06:59:18 GMT2013-11-14 14:59:18(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Alito L. Malinao

MANILA, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- Almost a week after super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) hit the Philippines on Nov. 8, tens of thousands of victims in the central island provinces of Leyte and Samar are still desperate for food and other basic needs.

But this is not a question of lacking relief goods because hundreds of tons of aid from foreign donors are standing idly in transshipment points in Manila and Cebu and could not be transported to their intended recipients.

The Armed Forces Central Command admitted that there were still areas that have not received relief goods due to logistical problem.

"There's a bit of a logjam to be absolutely honest getting stuff in here," United Nations official Sebastian Rhodes Stampa told reporters on Wednesday at the Tacloban City airport.

"Supplies are almost all in the country, either in Manila or in Cebu, but it's not here. We're going to have real challenge with logistics in terms of getting things out of here, into town, out of town, into the other areas," he said. "The reason for that essentially is that there are no trucks, the roads are all closed. "

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin also acknowledged that the relief, while not wanting, was only trickling down to the survivors.

Gazmin said he himself was at a loss to explain where the bottleneck was. "There is something wrong with the system," Gazmin said. "I don't know how to put it, but we have been doing our part of bringing supplies from the national government to the local governments."

Gazmin said that it could be the absence of communications in the first few days after the storm, but said things were now getting better organized and relief could begin to be sent where they were needed most.

Other organizations that have immediately responded to the call for help have been marooned elsewhere. A team from Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), complete with medical supplies, arrived in Cebu City on Saturday looking for a flight to Tacloban, but had not left by Tuesday.

The Mactan Air Base in Cebu and the Villamor Air Base in Manila have been designated as jumped-off points for relief goods for the disaster areas.

Tacloban City in Leyte and Guiuan town in Samar are only two of the areas almost totally devastated by Yolanda.

During the last few days, survivors of the catastrophe have turned to looting in their desperation to feed themselves and their families. On Wednesday eight people were crushed to death after a warehouse of the National Food Authority in Tacloban City collapsed.

The victims were among a horde of hungry survivors who stormed the government-owned rice distribution agency in order to get rice for their families.

The eight are the latest to be added to the number of deaths in the worst calamity that hit the country in recent years.

In an interview with an international TV network, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday tried to dispute the claim that some 10,000 could have died from the super-typhoon.

He said the estimate was not based on facts and could have been made by some local officials amid the trauma that they have experienced during the deluge.

Aquino said that the death toll was likely to be closer to 2, 000 or 2,500. As of Thursday, the tally by the government disaster agency showed 2,357 dead, 3,853 injured and 77 missing. But those who have been buried in mass graves and the bodies that are still unclaimed in the streets in Tacloban City are not included.

The Philippines expressed gratitude for foreign countries which had offered donations for the typhoon. In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the country has received assistance from 36 countries and international organizations with a total value of 89.5 million U.S. dollars.

China was among those that donated to the typhoon victims. Beijing has donated 10 million Renminbi (1.64 million U.S. dollars) , including blankets and tents to support emergency shelter. This was on top of a 100,000-U.S.-dollar donation by the China Red Cross Society and the earlier Chinese government donation of 100, 000 U.S. dollars.

On Wednesday, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos launched an appeal in Manila for 301 million U.S. dollars more to help the 11 million people estimated to be affected by the calamity in the Philippines.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) also announced on Wednesday 523 million U.S. dollars in disaster assistance.

The United States, Britain, Japan, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Germany, the European Commission, the Vatican and several international non- government organizations, have also contributed to the relief fund for the typhoon victims.

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