Thursday, December 29, 2011

News Update Foreign aid for Sendong-hit Mindanao flow in trickles as donors go on holiday

Response has been slow to the United Nation’s appeal for $28.6 million (P1.243 billion) in disaster aid for victims of the Dec. 16 Tropical Storm Sendong. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA) said the donations are trickling in because the storm and their appeal came just before Christmas and most offices of donor agencies are on vacation. “Even though this is one of the country’s worst natural disasters in two decades, it happened a few days before Christmas when many donors are on holidays and offices are closed,” according to the UNOCHA, citing Dr. Soe Nyunt-U, the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines. So far, P195.7 million or $4.5 million has come in, of which $3 million was from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and $1.5 million from Japan, said Kirsten Mildren, UNOCHA Public Information and Advocacy Officer in a telephone interview with GMA News Online. “We’re doing everything that we can,” she said, sharing that the agency is actively approaching donors and agencies, and issuing press releases to generate more interest in the matter. However, “it is not really a good week to be asking for donations,” said Mildren. Dr. Soe Nyunt-U noted that the CERF pledge was instrumental in starting urgent UN interventions. While Japan is the only country donor so far, Mildren said that they are expecting to get a response from Australia and Spain. “[The fund] is for three months, and will cover the needs of 471,000 people. It will cover the critical things like water and sanitation, health, food, nutritional support and shelter,” Mildren said. “At the moment, shelter is the most critical need we have,” she added. The amount from CERF was distributed in three equal portions to the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Program, and the International Organization for Migration. Meanwhile, P15,395,460 ($354,000) of the total fund will be allotted for the reconstruction of educational facilities and replacement of damaged learning materials, according to a statement from the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said on Wednesday that, “In times of emergency, communities are likely to prioritize needs related to people’s immediate survival and will not have the resources to address the basic need of affected school children and teachers.” “For this reason, forward planning to preserve a child’s right to education is one of the most valuable actions a government can take, before disasters strike,” she added. The UNICEF has already pledged to provide children with continued access to safe learning environments in the storm-ravaged cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. The government also gave Iligan City P241-million to build a core shelter on a 10-hectare relocation site. The shelter will house 3,549 families. According to the latest situation report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, 54,473 people are living in 53 evacuation centers in northern Mindanao’s Sendong-hit areas. — ELR/VS/KG