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Typhoon survivors lambast government inaction

Haiyan protesters demand immediate food and cash aid

Ronald O. Reyes, Manila

February 17, 2014

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At least 1,000 survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the central Philippines last November, protested at the presidential palace in Manila today to assail the government's apparent failure to help those affected by the disaster.

Police and presidential guards blocked the protesters when they tried to get near the palace gates. After negotiations, three representatives from the group were allowed inside the palace to submit a petition containing their demands.

The petition contained the survivors' call for the immediate distribution of $1,000 "cash relief," the scrapping of the "No-Build Zone" policy on coastal areas in the provinces of Samar and Leyte, and continued distribution of food aid.

"The people are suffering and they are seething because the government cannot assure the most basic needs such as food, livelihood, housing, and social services," said Benedictine Sister Edita Eslopor, spokeswoman for People Surge, an alliance of typhoon survivors.

Sister Eslopor said three months after Typhoon Haiyan struck, many victims are still struggling to survive under harsh conditions.

"The most glaring fact about the post-Haiyan reconstruction program is that the people are not at the center of the program," she said.

The nun said there is no clear plan for recovery and reconstruction, with some estimates reaching as high as $15 billion.

"Is it because such a huge amount of money is stirring a frenzy of horse trading between the government and the big foreign and local businesses it seeks to partner with?" she asked.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees today said it continues to support the government in providing protection for vulnerable typhoon survivors. 

The UNHCR said more than 4.1 million people have been displaced by the super typhoon, which claimed some 6,200 lives and damaged 1.1 million homes.

More than three months later, concerns remain on the security of affected communities recovering from the devastation. Lingering issues include a heightened risk of human trafficking and sexual violence, as well as concerns about the elderly, disabled, indigenous populations and homeless, said Joel Andersson, UNHCR head of operations in Tacloban City.

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