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Urgent aid still needed after Philippines super typhoon

Recovery from Haiyan is 'only beginning,' says UN

Urgent aid still needed after Philippines super typhoon

More than three months after Typhoon Haiyan hit the central Philippines, many areas still need to be rebuilt. (Photo by Vincent Go)

Joe Torres and Ronald Reyes, Manila

February 27, 2014

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The United Nations today said millions of people affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan "still require urgent assistance to rebuild their lives and livelihoods".

In a press conference in Manila on Thursday, Valerie Amos, UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said many communities devastated last November are only beginning the process of recovery.

"The government, the United Nations and [non-government organizations] must now continue to work together to do more, so that the most vulnerable people are included in the recovery," Amos said.

She said that although major disease outbreaks were avoided in the first 100 days of the response to the disaster, more than 50 cases of dengue fever were confirmed in three regions.

"We need to continue assisting health authorities to ensure mitigation of outbreaks," she said.

Amos said donors have contributed to the emergency relief phase of the response to the disaster and the $788 million appeal has been "46 percent funded".

"I will continue to press donors for more resources," she said yesterday at the end of a two-day visit to Guiuan town and Tacloban City, which were worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan. She said that restoring livelihoods is at the heart of the UN's recovery work in the area. describing the needs in this respect as huge."

A million farmers in the Eastern Visayas region were affected when more than 33 million coconut trees were damaged or destroyed by the typhoon. Devastation spread to another 10 million trees in other affected areas. 

Fishing communities also lost their means of livelihood, with 10,000 mainly small-scale fishing boats lost or destroyed and another 20,000 damaged. 

More than a million homes were flattened and more than four million people displaced with many still to find lasting housing solutions.

The US government added to the aid effort today with the formal handover of 1,500 metric tons of rice.

"This assistance signifies once again the commitment of the American people to partner with Filipinos in rebuilding the lives of so many affected," said US ambassador Philip Goldberg.

The assistance is part of the 5,000 metric tons of rice -- enough to help feed 500,000 people for one month -- that was pledged by US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Tacloban in December.

To date, the US government has provided a total of $87.7 million in immediate humanitarian assistance for typhoon survivors. Of this assistance, food aid accounts to more than $20 million.

A Philippine legislator, meanwhile, has urged the government to construct permanent evacuation centers.

"It should be imperative for the government to provide a longterm response to the problem, hence, permanent evacuation centers located at the safest areas in the country must be established and constructed to internationally acceptable standards," said Congresswomen Emmi de Jesus of the women's party Gabriela.

The country's Catholic bishops have called on the government to exempt victims of Haiyan from paying taxes for two or three years.

Father Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action secretariat of the bishops' conference, said giving victims a respite from taxation is a "big thing because that will give them room to breathe".

The priest said exempting typhoon victims from paying tax is also one way for the government to show its "good will".

“This should be part of the recovery proposal as this will be a big help to the victims," Gariguez said.

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