UK response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines makes the grade | 

UK-funded jerrycans being distributed by the NGO Plan International in the village of Santo Nino on Leyte island, Philippines, Saturday, 7 December 2013.
UK-funded jerrycans being distributed by the NGO Plan International in the village of Santo Nino on Leyte island, Philippines, December 2013.

Survey says, the UK did a very good job in its response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

At least that is what the Independent Commission for Aid Impact found when investigating the work of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). A green rating was given for the humanitarian support provided by DFID, the best possible rating. Not only that, the £77 million that the UK provided was more than any other country, even beating out the US.

“DFID responded swiftly and decisively to the emergency,” said Independent Commission for Aid Impact Chief Commissioner, Graham Ward. “It was the largest single donor and played a lead role in the response, providing vital humanitarian assistance to people in dire need. Its early and multi-faceted action helped to galvanize support from other donors and to influence the global humanitarian aid response.”

This represents only the third time that DFID has scored green in thirty-two reports. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact is an independent body that scrutinizes the UK’s foreign aid work. A team of investigators were sent out in January to determine how things went in the Philippines. Their findings that the UK was a leader in the response, but there is still more work to be done. Continue reading

Philippines Response Turning the Corner, says US Official | 

3d07951562The international relief effort in the Philippines responding to the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan is slowly improving.

Roads are clearing, making it easier for lifesaving supplies to reach people in need. Trucks and cars now move between Tacloban city and its airport.

US officials are cautiously optimistic that the improvements will accelerate the relief response to the disaster.

“We are getting to a better place,” said a senior US government official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity. “We are starting to turn the corner on the logistical challenges.”

The official said, before the recent improvements it was like trying to fit an orange through a straw. Logistical challenges to deliver aid are still immense.

“We now have more and bigger straws,” the official said.

The main airport in Tacloban is small Large aircraft, like a 747, are unable to land on the airstrip. C130s and other medium sized aircraft, managed by the US military, bring supplies in and evacuate people out to Manila.

Flights on Tuesday delivered 170,000 lbs of USAID supplies, as well as 6,000 lbs of water and 6,000 lbs of food from the Philippines. Wednesday saw similar levels of supplies that included tarps, medical supplies, blankets and humanitarian relief kits. People without homes were carried back to Manila on return flights. Approximately 800 people have been evacuated out of Tacloban on US flights.


Thus far, a $20 million commitment has been made by the US to support the Philippines in its relief work. Half of the money is to be spent by the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) on water, hygiene, emergency kits and more. The other half will buy food aid. The officials said US food aid should have been delivered to the World Food Programme some time yesterday.

Amid reports of declining fuel availability in the Philippines due to weather damage and looting, the US priorities remain food, water and shelter. The Philippines are leading and dictating where needs exist. Marines based in Japan will soon be deployed to the Philippines, which could bring the total number of US military on the ground to 1,000 by the end of the week, if requested.

“Our focus is to get those three key assets into Taclaban in order to prevent further loss of life,” said another official. “Then we will let the sustained piece come in.”

Overall security appears to be improving in the past day. The initial looting and violence were the result of people needing food and water. Areas in Tacloban that experienced looting only a few days ago are relatively calm following the penetration of aid.

There is still a long way to go. Aid is reaching only twenty percent of residents in Tacloban, said city administrator Tecson John Lim to Reuters today.

Tacloban, Philippines

A debrief with the advance OFDA team that was deployed before the typhoon struck is now underway. There are areas along the coast that have little or no humanitarian access. The officials are hopeful that information collected by the team on the ground will help to identify areas of need and ways to get to the hardest to reach people.

“It’s true, there are still areas that we have not been able to get to where people are in desperate need,” said UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos. “I very much hope that in the next 48 hours, that will change significantly.”

OFDA says it starting to provide grants to NGO partners that have more expertise in the region. Many groups on the ground are relying on individual donors and available budgetary space to mount a response in the Philippines. Grants from major donors, like the US, will help ensure work continues.

“That will add a lot of gasoline to the tank of their activities,” said an official.

The two day-old Haiyan Action Plan launched by the UN has raised only thirteen percent of the $301 million appeal. The US officials repeatedly said that this was a demand driven response. It was intimated that the US was willing and able to provide increased assistance if requested by the Philippines.

The focus today is on the humanitarian essentials. There is an expectation that the US will remain involved in the ensuing recovery effort in the months ahead.

Typhoon exposes countless challenges faced by the Philippines | 

Rovilyne Rosell, Daang Bantayan. Her home was partially destroyed in typhoon.
Rovilyne Rosell, Daang Bantayan. Her home was partially destroyed in typhoon.
Alabama Red Cross

The latest information regarding the toll wrought by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines gets worse. Nearly 10 million people are affected by the damage. An estimated 700,000 people are homeless, requiring $301 million in support. Roughly 10,000 are feared dead in the province of Leyte alone (the president refutes the claim, saying the total is closer to 2,500).

A combination of factors that could and could be be controlled contributed to devastation and is hampering relief effort. Poverty, geography, poor prevention work, a series of recent natural disasters and one big bad storm all conspired against Filipinos when the typhoon made landfall on Friday.

Messages pleading for food are seen painted on buildings in the port city of Tacloban. The international community is sending in whatever help is possible, but access to affected areas remains extremely hard. Out of the 81 semi-autonomous provinces that make up the Philippines, the roads and bridges in thirty-six are destroyed or impassible, says the UN.

Food, water and shelter are top priorities for the response. Getting supplies to people, let alone who needs what, is an immense challenge. The round trip drive from the airport to Tacloban, consisting of only 22 km, takes six hours, says the UN. The little information available from the hardest to reach areas is dire. Continue reading

Is the crisis in Sudan evidence of aid community’s attention-deficit disorder? | 

Flickr, Utenriksdept

Celebrating new nationhood in Juba, South Sudan

Not that long ago, the world was celebrating South Sudan as the world’s newest nation. Actor George Clooney set up satellites to try to monitor activities and encourage best behavior.

But things have gotten worse. As the Washington Post reports, more than 120,000 people are now in need of humanitarian assistance due to ethnic conflict. CNN quotes top officials warning of famine in Sudan as the violence makes aid and relief more difficult:

“There is a looming humanitarian disaster in Sudan,” said Princeton Lyman, United States envoy to Sudan. Lyman said a lack of leadership, history of ethnic violence and the indictment of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court are all factors that have complicated the crisis in that country.

Last week, I spoke to a Seattle man from South Sudan for his perspective on the internal conflict, and the reasons for the cycles of violence and instability. He had been accused by some of raising funds in support of tribal violence back home.

There are lots of theories, or episodes of finger-pointing, aimed at explaining why things are going sideways in Sudan.

But one reason may be the international community’s attention-deficit response to such crises.

The Guardian has an op-ed by the director of Refugees International, Michel Gabaudan, who argues that we don’t know how to shift from an emergency response sprint to a longer-term, deliberative development marathon run:

During Sudan’s long north-south civil war, international humanitarian agencies got used to providing vital basic services (such as healthcare) for the civilian population in the south. When the war finally ended, and South Sudan became independent last July, the needs of its population began to change. The aid community’s response should have changed as well.

It’s an interesting article that examines the international community’s tendency, however well-intentioned, to respond to immediate emergencies but then fail to support the changes — economic, social, political — needed to make for lasting positive change. Concludes Gabaudan:

As we have seen in South Sudan and elsewhere, this failure to bridge the gap from humanitarian to development assistance can prevent people from rebuilding their lives. The human toll of conflicts and disasters is too high as it is. What the world needs is an aid system that can respond quickly to those crises, and provide effective development assistance – and seamlessly bridge the two so that no more lives are threatened.

Guest post: The ugly game of relief for Japan | 

Flickr, jchong

Note: This is a post written by an aid worker I know who, for reasons of employment, doesn’t wish to be identified.


Over the last day, my email inbox has filled with appeals for aid to Japan.

I’ve heard from International Medical Corps, the World Food Programme, the American Red Cross, MSF, and JustGive. That’s the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Oh, and Lady Gaga has a bracelet.

How many of the groups raising money for Japan are actually in Japan providing aid? The Red Cross, kind of.  It’s supporting the Japanese Red Cross, I guess, although the Japanese Red Cross has been quoted saying they don’t need assistance right now.

IMC doesn’t have a presence of any kind in Japan. Neither does Doctors without Borders, Save the Children, or anyone else. World Vision has an office in Japan, but it’s a fundraising office devoted to getting donations for work in Asia. They’re not exactly out there with a helicopter and a search dog. Continue reading