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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

United Nations agencies now in Bicol

“Goni” leaves untold misery in seven regions across the country

MANILA – The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today said ground assessments have provided a clearer picture of the extent of damages Super Typhoon “Goni” (also known as “Rolly”) where homes were destroyed, bring floods and destruction and leaving a grim experience to more than 24 million people.

In its report released a few minutes past 8:00 P.M., Friday, quoting updates from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), it was learned as of today, 1,197,888 persons from 312,583 families from the country’s seven regions were directly affected by “Rolly.” More than 165,000 people from 33,000 families took shelter in 1,714 evacuation centers in the National Capital Region (NCR), Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, Bicol and the Cordillera Autonomous Region.

It was also reported that 21,000 homes were destroyed meaning many families will be displaced in the long-term. There were also 226 schools which were partially or totally damaged by the typhoon while 869 schools are presently utilized as evacuation centers thus providing temporary shelter to over 82,500 people. The NDRRMC also confirmed 22 deaths while three others have remained missing.

Local Water Utilities Administrator Jeci A. Lapus, in an interview with this writer said it will require near P250 million to restore efficient water service in Catanduanes’s capital town of Virac. Other teams from the LWUA have been sent to adjacent regions, particularly Albay province, to restore services. Some 90 per cent of the residents of Tiwi, Malinao and Tabaco City, all in Albay Province and Catanduanes continue toe xperience loos of power and mobile phone signals.

It has been said it may take months before Catanduanes gets back to its feet.

OCHA noted local markets are functioning and operational despite the damage to some infrastructure. Local responders are encouraged to provide cash as a modality of aid. People are in need of food assistance, cash or food for work, shelter repair kits, repair of WASH facilities as well as hygiene kits, electric power and communication facilities. It has also been noted people need psychosocial support and protection.

While “Goni” left the country’s area of responsibility, Atsani, also known as Siony, affected extreme northern Luzon, specifically Batanes and Babuyan Islands.

In addition to the difficulties faced by the typhoon victims, the Department of Health reminded the general public to be extremely careful in evacuation centers due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The DOH issued its call on local government officials to designate safety officers in evacuation centers and implement preventive measures as congested evacuation facilities are considered high risk areas for virus transmission. Six health facilities in Albay and Camarines are partially damaged but still functional while two local hospitals were damaged in Tabaco City and in San Andres, Catanduanes. The Bicol region has 512 active COVID-19 cases.

According to the UN OCHA report, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator sounded its commitment to a rapid and coordinated response following the Department of Foreign Affairs’ invitation to the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) to contribute to government efforts in attending to the needs of the affected population.

According to their statement, OCHA is leading in the preparation of a Humanitarian need and Priorities plan targeting the needs of 260,000 of vulnerable people in hard hit areas. It has been scheduled for release on Monday, November 9.

The government and the members of the HCT Inter Cluster Coordination Group are doing rapid impact and needs assessments. Recently, OCHA, supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and World Food Program (WFP) led an inter-agency assessment with NGOs, CSOs, and Church groups in Albay province. From yesterday until Monday, ICCG with the Office of Civil Defense launched a joint needs assessment in Catanduanes ground zero of the first landfall. The ECHO Emergency Response Cooperation Center has activated its Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service to help the assessments.

It was learned that the IOM supported by the German Embassy and USAID is providing PPEs, its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) tool, CCCM and Shelter kits support, particularly for Catanduanes province. WFP, supported by USAID, is bringing 9,600 family food packs in 35 trucks to Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur. FAO stands prepared to support the Department of Agriculture in looking into the damage to agriculture and in the rehabilitation of agri-facilities.

OCHA said World Vision will continue working with local government offices in Albay, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur to address the immediate needs of the typhoon victims. A team from Islamic Relief Philippines is in Bicol to assess the situation. The Philippine Red Cross will continue to provide support on WASH and distributing blankets, tarpaulins and food packs to people in need and have already set-up health checkpoints for COVID-19 in some of the most affected areas. (Melo M. Acuña)

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