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Uneven relief efforts leave many out in the cold, say survivors

Typhoon Bopha survivors are starting to lose hope

Uneven relief efforts leave many out in the cold, say survivors
Residents of devastated areas hit by Typhoo Bopha start returning to their village (photo by Keith Bacongco)
Kerima Bulan T. Navales, Compostela Valley

December 12, 2012

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The international community has pledged billions of dollars of financial aid for the relief and rehabilitation of two southern Mindanao provinces that were ravaged last week by Typhoon Bopha.

But on the ground, the reality in the wake of the devastation has done little to inspire hope for the future.

As the thick stench of death and destruction hovers over villages gutted by the storm, and with the death toll continuing to mount, survivors have grown increasingly desperate as they scramble for food, shelter and whatever precious resources they can beg for, borrow or even steal. 

Along the national highway in Compostela Valley province – the road that now ends in the devastated New Bataan town – survivors from upland villages line up and beg for money, food, water and anything that might relieve their suffering.

First it was just a group of adults, most of them men. As days passed, women and children have joined their ranks.

Gabriela Kiri Lluch Dalena, a filmmaker who visited disaster areas, said it was disheartening to see so many people in such dire circumstances and falling prey to desperation and even violence. 

“It is their right that they be given swift and sufficient relief and assistance, which is the primary responsibility of the government. They beg because they do not know who should help them. It is something that I might also possibly do if I were in their situation,” she said.

Many residents on the outskirts of New Bataan walk hours just to reach the town center in the hope of getting food packets. But most of the time, they return home empty handed.

In the town of Cateel in Davao Oriental province, which has been cut off from relief efforts for days, children complained they had nothing to eat. 

One village official even started a fistfight with a resident who questioned the way relief goods were distributed.

Residents earlier raided a local store and took away sacks of rice that were later distributed to the people.

Bishop Antonio Ablon of the Philippine Independent Church said some of the victims have been overlooked.

“As the attention of media and aid agencies are on New Bataan and the towns in Davao Oriental, other towns that were also ravaged by the typhoon are left on the side," the prelate said. 

"There is a reason for this desperation,” he said.

A resident of Compostela town said some victims were not given relief goods unless they were able to show identification cards.

“Many of us had to go home empty handed. How can we possibly show a document when we even failed to secure our personal belongings from the flood?” he said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said it is closely coordinating with aid agencies in the hope to quickly and efficiently facilitate the distribution of relief goods.

“Right now, what we must do is to extend as much help as we can to the victims,” a volunteer said.

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