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Asia Pacific: four disasters, six months on

26 March 2010

Woman holding a child in front of a group working on the floorSix months on from a number of disasters which caused devastation across the Philippines, Vietnam, Samoa and Indonesia, severely affecting nine million people, recovery remains a challenge.

In the wake of two major typhoons, two earthquakes and a tsunami, Red Cross volunteers carried out search and rescue, tended to the wounded, provided safe shelter and offered comfort and support around the clock.

The British Red Cross launched an appeal to support people affected through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have received vital help.

“Over the course of the past six months, new large scale disasters around the world have captured the public’s attention” said Alistair Henley, director of the Federation in Asia Pacific. “But it is important to remember that our recovery operations are not yet complete and that many people continue to struggle. We have to stay focused on the job at hand.”

Typhoons

Red Cross volunteer holding a poster about clean waterIn the Philippines, where Typhoons Ketsana and Parma left nearly 1,000 dead and damaged or destroyed 300,000 homes, the Red Cross is helping 550,000 people in their early recovery.

Despite significant progress on the part of the Philippines Red Cross through relief distributions to hundreds of thousands of families and health support for more than 35,000 families, a funding shortfall has forced the scaling back of shelter programmes. Unless new contributions are made, temporary shelter will only be provided to 1,900 families of the 6,500 initially targeted to receive support.

In Vietnam, also impacted by heavy rains from Typhoon Ketsana, the Red Cross has distributed food aid to 210,000 people, and provided 1,600 shelter kits and 16,600 household kits that include blankets, mosquito nets, water containers and kitchen utensils. It has also provided 500,000 water purification tablets, seeds, fertilizer and tarpaulins as well as cash grants to nearly 8,600 families.

Earthquakes

In Samoa, an earthquake triggered a tsunami that caused huge devastation, affecting more than 5,000 people and destroying homes, vehicles and livelihoods. The Red Cross is providing support to thousands of the nation’s most vulnerable people by providing emergency relief goods, shelter, psychosocial support, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene promotion programmes.

So far, the Samoa Red Cross Society has procured, distributed and assisted in the installation of nearly 250 household tanks to harvest rain water each with a 5,000 litre capacity. They have also placed 69 communal water tanks in 12 villages heavily impacted by the disaster.

In Indonesia, as many as 100,000 people were devastated by two major earthquakes. Over the past six months, the Red Cross has supported 37,000 beneficiaries with transitional shelter support, water, sanitation, and health and hygiene activities. At the end of March, nearly 800 temporary shelters will have been completed.

Focus on resilience

In addition to supporting emergency, short-term needs, each of these operations has taken important steps to strengthen the ability of communities to prepare for and cope with future disasters.

“We continue to stress that every disaster provides leaders at the community level, nationally and around the world with an opportunity to become better prepared for the future,” said Alastair. “The steps we are taking today with Red Cross National Societies in the Philippines, Vietnam, Samoa and Indonesia will address ongoing humanitarian needs and build resilience at the same time.”

Money raised by the British Red Cross appeal has been used both in the emergency phase of these disasters and in supporting the transitional shelter programmes.

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