Haiyan Relief Efforts Well Under Way

The following report was received from Phil Skellie, on special assignment for CAMA to assess the relief and development response to victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Thank you for your prayers as the CAMA team (Mark Jones, Matt Will, and I) made its trip to assess Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) damage in the Philippines. God answered prayer for both traveling mercies and for the development of a response plan.

The Philippines is the third most disaster-prone country in the world. In addition to damage assessment of the worst recorded hurricane/typhoon on record (200+ mile an hour winds, which snapped normally flexible bamboo), we also assessed damage from a 7.2 earthquake, which severely damaged towns on Bohol a month before the typhoon. CAMA had assisted with the response to that quake.

In developing a response plan to the typhoon, we met in Manila with both an Alliance marketplace ministries couple who lead a local relief and development organization (Ina-Inakay) and the leadership of CAMACOP (Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches of the Philippines). Members of both groups traveled with us we visited the typhoon and earthquake ravaged islands. After surveying the devastation, we identified the following as key needs in most areas:

  1. Rebuilding homes/churches. An estimated 1.2 million homes were destroyed by the storm, and about 4 million people were displaced. We met one Alliance pastor and his wife who had lost both their home and church building and were living in their pigpen. We moved them to a location in a nearby city until their home could be rebuilt.
  2. Trauma counseling. Children and adults in Bohol were afraid to sleep in their homes for fear of another earthquake; aftershocks are still hitting Bohol. We saw men sitting in the tops of coconut trees in Tacloban, Leyte—the most severely damaged city—who had lost their minds and were shouting nonsense to passers by. The smell of rotting corpses still permeates the air in parts of Tacloban. Criminals from a jail that was abandoned during the typhoon, along with gangs from other areas, terrorized Tacloban and Palo, causing one pastor to buy machetes to protect his family. A couple I met on a ferry boat had lost their 10-year-old son, a mother, and four nephews/nieces.
  3. Job creation. A part of the response plan is to organize loan groups who will be capitalized with disaster relief funds from CAMA. In addition, funds will be released to provide local fisherman with supplies needed to rebuild their boats.
  4. Food. Most areas had sufficient food from the World Food Program or merchants/farmers on Philippine islands who were not affected by the typhoon. However, Tacloban and Palo will continue to need food assistance from non-affected areas of Leyte and other islands for at least a year.

In addition to the above, there is a need to provide memorial services for those who perished (almost 6,000 to date with the number rising), many of whom were buried in mass graves. In this primarily Catholic country, Filipinos customarily have wakes and an extended grieving process. The short-circuiting of this process hampers people in getting on with their lives.

An answer to prayer was that CAMACOP leaders have decided to establish an immediate foundation to address future disasters. Rev. Roel Tabassa, a well-respected and competent leader, was appointed to oversee relief and community development issues in the future. The CAMA team met with Rev. Tabbassa and has established a relationship that should greatly help facilitate future disaster response efforts.

The response of the Alliance family in prayer and funding was an encouragement to us as we traveled. The resilience and generosity of the Filipino people also was very inspiring. There were many donation sites and Filipino response teams in cities we visited, including CAMACOP church teams from Mindanao and Luzon. I came away with a renewed awareness that we in the United States (Superstorm Sandy and tornado alley notwithstanding) are very well off in comparison. As we celebrate God’s Gift to us this Christmas, may we do so with grateful hearts for the spiritual and material blessings we have received, and a renewed commitment to insure that others around the world will share these blessings.

We are deeply grateful to all who have joined hands with CAMA and CAMACOP through prayer and giving to provide for the immense needs of those who have suffered loss from this devastating disaster.

Phil Skellie

On Special Assignment for CAMA, Philippines

Make a Donation

CAMA, the relief and development arm of The Alliance, is currently responding to this crisis with immediate aid. To help support these efforts, visit CAMA’s website and make a donation to CAMA’s Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund.

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