herald

Thursday 20 September 2018

Irish aid agency first to reach hungry and homeless victims of typhoon

DESPERATE: Displaced women and children await the arrival of life-saving aid packs from Irish agency Goal. Inset, a child drinks clean water from a plastic bag
DESPERATE: Displaced women and children await the arrival of life-saving aid packs from Irish agency Goal. Inset, a child drinks clean water from a plastic bag

GOAL is the first aid agency to reach a town of 60,000 people devastated by Typhoon Haiyan eight days ago.

On the island of Panay, homeless Filipinos – who call the typhoon Yolanda – had resorted to drinking drain water through their T-shirts to survive while others were living off coconuts.

Goal, which has received nearly €100,000 in donations from the public, was the first foreign agency to arrive there, and packs of food and medicine were distributed to nearly 3,000 families.

The stench of decaying bodies lies heavy in the air as relatives keep their loved ones' corpses in the rubble of their former homes and play cards outside as a form of waking them.

The coastal town we visited suffered badly from the post-typhoon storm surge which claimed 130 lives.

Bodies floated for days before being claimed. People "simply cannot afford the luxury of a funeral".

Goal trucks could not use the roads as they were covered in debris and blocked by fallen pylons and telephone poles.

Drivers climbed on to the roof of a large lorry full of aid packages to move low-lying cables and drooping branches out of the vehicle's way.

Most foreign aid and media attention focuses on Tacloban where 220,000 people lived, but the destruction elsewhere is far worse as remote regions struggle to survive.

Goal made it out on to satellite islands yesterday by paddle boats and discovered people who had not eaten for days.

FRANTIC

Many of them are fishermen whose and whose livelihoods have been wiped out.

More than 10 million people have been affected by the typhoon and its aftermath.

The totality of the disaster is extremely difficult to comprehend – people walk around in rags carrying small bags with all of their life's possessions.

A small ziploc bag shared by one family and containing a face cloth and a toothbrush fell on the ground and into the mud – they scrambled frantically to gather it up. It was everything they owned.

Even though these people have nothing but the clothes on their backs and were a week awaiting aid, without any sustenance they have begun rebuilding their ruined.

Men carried fallen bamboo and were using it to make walls for new homes while women hung out clothes to dry on nearby trees.

The aid packs distributed yesterday that were funded by donations from the Irish public will last the families about four days. They contained a blanket, rice, noodles, tinned foods and paracetamol.

The island of Panay was in the direct path of Haiyan, and the big challenge here now will be repairing boats so the people can return to fishing in order to survive.

hnews@herald.ie

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