Philippines calls for help following deadly storm


Calls by the Philippine government for help following the deadly storm has been answered, as the United Nations humanitarian wing on Monday said it has dispatched a disaster response official to the Southeast Asian country.

Tropical Storm Ketsana has caused, by last count, 240 deaths and a rising number of missing and injured and has reportedly triggered some of the worst flooding in the Philippines in more than four decades.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), other aid staff in the UN country office will operate from the disaster operations center in the coming days to ensure proper coordination with the Philippine government.

A state of calamity has been declared in eight regions of the country, including the capital, Manila, where heavy downpours have inundated homes and uprooted people from their homes. Electricity outages, inaccessible roads and lack of communications are hampering the rescue and relief efforts, OCHA said.

Several UN agencies have begun responding in the wake of the disaster. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released 2,000 kits containing non-food items and is assessing the need for further kits and water and sanitation support.

The head of the World Food Programme (WFP) said that it will, as a first step, provide vital food rations to approximately 180,000 Filipinos in the worst-affected areas.

“I want to assure the people and government of the Philippines of our support for food assistance as part of a swift and coordinated recovery effort,” executive director Josette Sheeran said in a statement.

On Sunday, WFP participated in a helicopter fly-over of the worst-affected areas organized by the Philippine government. A joint rapid needs assessment between the government and UN agencies is currently under way, the UN added.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it will provide, as an immediate response, $42,000 to support health needs in the wake of the storm.