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By Cherian Matthews, Regional Director of Oxfam in Asia
I have just returned from the typhoon-ravaged areas of Daanbantayan and Bantayan Island in Cebu province of the Philippines. When I went there, I had moving images of the destruction on my mind – the helpless faces of women, children and families that were being flashed on T.V channels. But I have come back inspired and moved by the resilience of affected communities, local government agencies and volunteers. In the areas I visited, people are bouncing back from the tragedy inflicted by Typhoon Hayian.
When our rapid assessment teams came back from Leyte and Eastern Samar, they came from a total information blackout into a storm of angry and combative debate on the efficiency of government response to supertyphoon Haiyan victims. A couple of my colleagues marveled at how negative the atmosphere was and admittedly, the debate has gotten pretty exhausting and polarizing. Everywhere I go, whether it’s a dinner, a team meeting, an email exchange or social media, the conversations run along the same questions. Why is government response so slow?
It is only three years since the world was shocked by Haiti’s earthquake and Pakistan’s terrible floods in the same year. That was 2010, and both governments and private donors responded with massive generosity. International humanitarian aid shot up to US$20.2 billion to attempt, at least, to cope with the ‘year of two megadisasters.’
Ayer, durante la jornada inaugural de la cumbre del clima de la ONU en Varsovia, representantes de países de todo el mundo llenaron la sala de conferencias para escuchar a Yeb Sano, principal negociador sobre el clima de Filipinas. En su intervención, describió “la devastación inimaginable, horrible y sin precedentes que el tifón Haiyan ha dejado a su paso –el mayor tifón de la historia reciente–”.
Oxfam's early assessment team has sent through this report from Cebu island, Philippines.
Meet the Mondejar sisters: Nelia, Sarah Jane and Rizza Mae. They are aged 10, 8 and 5 respectively. Next to them is their friend, Jennylyn Pepito, 6 years old. They are all housed in one of the classrooms of Daanbantayan National High School, which currently serves an evacuation center for 160 families on Cebu island.
At the opening of the UN climate talks in Warsaw yesterday representatives of countries from around the globe packed into the conference hall to hear the lead climate negotiator for the Philippines, Yeb Sano, describe the ‘unthinkable, horrific and unprecedented devastation left in the wake of Typoon Haiyan - the strongest typhoon in modern recorded history’.