x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dubai serves as base for Typhoon Haiyan aid

More international aid continues to trickle into typhoon-ravaged Philippines this week, with the UN World Food Programme mobilising food supplies from Dubai.

Ninety-four tonnes of high-energy biscuits have been shipped out of the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai. Kevin J Larkin for The National
Ninety-four tonnes of high-energy biscuits have been shipped out of the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai. Kevin J Larkin for The National

ABU DHABI // International aid continues to arrive in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines this week, with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) mobilising food supplies from Dubai.

Ninety-four tonnes of high-energy biscuits have been shipped out of the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai.

“Nine metric tonnes will be shipped tonight and 76 metric tonnes by tomorrow,” Bill Campbell, WFP Dubai’s officer in charge, said on Monday.

A core component of WFP’s initial response, the biscuits are often provided in the early days of a crisis as they are lightweight and ready to eat.

Survivors have been in desperate need of food, water and medical supplies since Typhoon Haiyan struck on November 8, killing thousands and displacing 1.6 million.

The WFP has been working with its Philippine peer, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), to get food out to the affected people.

Family food packs for more than 760,000 people, plus high-energy biscuits for 33,000, have been dispatched to shelters in 24 municipalities in Leyte province, including Tacloban City.

WFP has also flown in important equipment such as prefabricated offices, mobile storage units, generators and radio equipment.

Mr Campbell is no stranger to disaster relief efforts, having been part of the fast response team of the WFP Dubai since 2002.

Damaged roads and airports in the Philippines hampered international efforts to help victims. Poor conditions at Tacloban City airport made delivering aid difficult, while aid efforts struggled at the clogged Cebu City airport.

The situation has since improved, Mr Campbell said, with the growing ranks of aid agencies on the ground distributing aid material.

On Monday, WFP was to fly five emergency response vehicles into the Philippines from Dubai.

It has so far shipped 692 tonnes of equipment worth US$3.1 million (Dh11.4m) to Catholic Relief Services, the Italian ministry of foreign affairs, Irish Aid, the World Health Organisation and other partners.

These included shelter items such as tents and blankets, and sanitary items such as portable hand-washing equipment.

During the first week alone, about 300 kilograms of emergency communications equipment were deployed to the Philippines.

This is vital to allow the government and humanitarian community to properly organise the relief operation.

The first member of a 10-member team of communications specialists flew in a day after the typhoon struck to establish emergency telecoms infrastructure. The rest arrived on November 10.

“Power and communications were badly affected,” said Neil Murphy-Dewar, an emergency IT responder from Dubai and team leader of the emergency telecommunications cluster in Tacloban.

The cluster works to provide shared communications services to humanitarian organisations in emergencies, he said.

“It is critical to our operations,” Mr Campbell said. ”With the disabled communication networks, we have to get the correct information – what to supply and the immediate emergency assistance needed on the ground.”

Over the next six months, WFP plans to provide food assistance to 2.5 million people affected by the typhoon.

“The public response to WFP’s appeal has been generous and millions of dollars have been received in private donations from around the world,” Mr Campbell said.

So far, Denmark, the European Union, Germany, Italy, Iceland, Spain and the United States have provided funding to support WFP’s emergency operations in the Philippines.

The WFP has advanced $25m (Dh91.8m) to fund the immediate assistance.

“We are currently seeking $101m to provide emergency food assistance to more than 2 million people, as well as logistics, and emergency telecommunications support to the whole humanitarian community,” Mr Campbell said.

To donate, visit wfp.org/typhoon. Each $100 donated can fund 1,000 packs of high-energy biscuits.

rruiz@thenational.ae