Humanitarian group Oxfam called on the Philippine government and the private sector to prioritize the distribution of shelter repair materials on top of food and water for typhoon-hit communities.
“Typhoon survivors already spent Christmas in evacuation centers,” said Oxfam country director Lot Felizco. “Let’s not keep them there for New Year’s Day too as we are still battling the pandemic.”
Felizco said the distribution of construction materials, which were requested both by residents and local government officials, will allow typhoon survivors to repair and rebuild their homes.
“This will in turn help decongest evacuation centers,” she said.
As of December 27, the Philippine government reported that 4.5 million Filipinos across 10 regions have been affected and displaced by Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai).
Initial monitoring showed that at least 400,000 houses were damaged — 127,000 of which were completely destroyed. The government also logged 378 deaths and 60 missing people.
Reports from Oxfam staff on the ground showed that evacuation centers are currently cramped with some rooms being occupied by three to four families at a time.
“This raises major health risks as it is impossible for them to observe physical distancing,” Felizco said, adding that they are also worried about the safety of women and children.
In some evacuation centers, people are also forced to bathe in open areas due to the continuous low water supply.
“The lack of water and sanitation facilities make frequent hand washing and proper hygiene habits more challenging for typhoon survivors,” Felizco said.
“Based on Oxfam’s experience supporting internally-displaced communities, the lack of electricity is also a safety concern and the use of gas lamps at night is a fire hazard,” she said.
In some areas, affected residents are already staying in makeshift houses built from salvaged materials.
“These are not sturdy or safe enough as rainfall is continuous in some parts of the country,” Felizco said.