The first batch of emergency relief for the victims of super typhoon Haiyan from the UAE — some 44 metric tonnes of high energy biscuits — is already on the ground. The batch landed on Monday, with two more batches en route and expected to arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) mobilised the food supplies from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Dubai. Bill Campbell, officer in charge at the WFP in Dubai said each batch could feed up to 120,000 people. From Manila, the biscuits have been sent to Cebu and Tacloban—the hardest-hit areas in central Philippines.
Campbell said the high-energy protein food would help abate some of the hunger.
“The high-energy biscuits are precious in the early stages of an emergency as they are nutritious, need no cooking and are easy to transport.”
Most of the affected provinces are without food, water and electricity, while airports are unusable except one and many roads remain impassable.
“We will increase the (biscuits) to 200 metric tonnes from the 14th and 15th (November). We will continue (sending biscuits) for two weeks for the emergency phase,” Campbell told Khaleej Times. WFP currently has 10 staff in Tacloban to mobilise assistance.
In order to mobilise its initial emergency response operations, WFP has released $2 million, but Campbell said this is not enough and is appealing for more funds.
At least 9.8 million people have been affected by super typhoon Haiyan, which Campbell compared to the devastation of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
“This is pretty big, the largest cyclone ever recorded in history. It was a complete devastation (just like) the tsunami in Banda Aceh (Indonesia, in 2004). That big.”
WFP Representative Praveen Agrawal said: “The main challenges right now are related to logistics. Roads are blocked, airports are destroyed.” He said WFP was working with the Philippine government to set-up operational hubs and organise airlifts of supplies.
In addition to food, WFP has also deployed 300 kg of radio telecommunication equipment from Dubai to set up an emergency telecommunications cluster.
“These will be used to get information on the island to allow greater insight on what’s happening on the ground,” said Campbell.
Mobile storage units, offices and generators are also being sent from the UNHRD in Malaysia.
This will allow aid workers to set-up operational hubs at Tacloban and Cebu airports.
The assistance comes at a time when people in the affected regions are ravaged by hunger, with many resorting to looting to survive.
A relief van on the way to Tacloban was reportedly stopped by looters in a desperate move. A state of emergency has been declared in Tacloban City and a 10pm to 6am curfew imposed. Food and petrol prices have skyrocketed.
According to UAE-based Arvin Solayao, his father and siblings are desperate for water and other relief goods.
Asked why supplies are being sent to Tacloban and not distributed directly to other affected areas, Campbell said: “Tacloban is at the heart of what is thought to be the worst-affected area.
WFP’s assessment missions are on-going, and the situation is complicated by the fact that large areas are still without power or telecommunications.”