Typhoon Haiyan that ripped across the central and Eastern islands of the Philippines last week has created devastation, death and chaos. Images of those hit by the typhoon; homes torn apart, people pleading for food and water, children crying makes uncomfortable viewing for those sitting warmly at home with a roof over their heads. Further, it brutally brings back the scenes from the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 or Haiti’s earthquake in 2010 and the utter destruction caused by Earth’s natural events.
A huge international aid effort is now well under way to provide immediate and vital support for those affected, including £10m in aid relief pledged by the UK, marines from the USA and further humanitarian aid from Australia, Indonesia and South Korea. Charity workers and aid appeals are also raising money and trying to reach the most needy. It has been estimated that Typhoon Haiyan has affected around 11 million people.
This is a momentous task. The typhoon, one of the strongest ever recorded on land, has destroyed the skeleton infrastructure on most islands that provided the routes into communities. The airport on Tacloban (a city severely hit on Leyte island) has been ruined. Now cut off, such areas are struggling to receive the food, water and shelter they need in order to survive the current and next phase of this disaster. The situation has been described as desperate with growing fear and panic amongst the population as the days increase without the aid they need.
…many cities suffer from overcrowding, unemployment and poverty…
The Philippines, over the past twenty years, has been fast emerging as one of the most promising newly-industrialised countries in the region and globally. However, with a booming population of 96 million and of which the majority live on just eleven out of seven thousand islands, many cities suffer from overcrowding, unemployment and poverty. It is currently this proportion of the population who are the most vulnerable and in need.
Questions will be soon raised if anything could have been done to prevent such a disastrous state as to the one unfolding now. Geographically vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanoes and frequently hit by typhoons and storms, the Philippines are no strangers to extreme weather. If more time and money had been spent into reinforcing houses, buildings and infrastructure, would Haiyan have caused as much damage and death? If such a storm were to hit us, here in Britain, would we be finding ourselves homeless and thirsty too?
…We must continue our support…
Such questions are hard to answer and in a way, fruitless. Typhoon Haiyan has passed and what is now important is focussing on the aid effort, from the immediate to the future. This typhoon has caused destruction on an unprecedented scale and its true impact will not be known for a while to come. Once the media coverage drops and moves on, it is easy to forget. But we must not. We must continue our support and help those through this disaster.