Category five super-cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji on Feb. 22, 2016. With winds of up to 180 mph, Winston was both the strongest cyclone to ever hit Fiji and the strongest cyclone on record to make landfall in the South Pacific archipelago overall. Fortunately, AmeriCares has stepped in to support Fijians in need.

AmeriCares, an emergency response and global health organization based in Stamford, Connecticut, is currently helping Fijians in their recovery and relief efforts. The organization has dispatched an emergency response team of volunteers to provide the medical care and assistance that some inhabitants require. AmeriCares has also prepared approximately 5,000 pounds of medical and relief supplies to deliver to Fiji.

Founder Robert C. Macauley first conceived of AmeriCares during the Vietnam War. In 1975, he and his wife sent an aircraft to Vietnam in order to airlift 300 infant orphans to safety in California. In order to do so, Macauley was forced to take a mortgage out on his house.

Since then, AmeriCares has worked in over 140 countries. These countries include North Korea, where the organization has sent medical supplies since 1997 — and Syria, where $7 million in medical aid has been delivered since 2012.

Approximately 909,389 people inhabit 110 of the 332 islands that compose Fiji. In Cyclone Winston’s wake, 347,000 now find themselves in need of humanitarian aid, of whom 120,000 are children, says UNICEF.

42 Fijians have been confirmed dead and some of the villages within the more remote islands of Fiji are thought to have been completely obliterated by the storm. An article by the Huffington Post reports that 35,000 are currently living in evacuation centers, some of which are running low on supplies.

Two major hospitals were also damaged by the cyclone, according to AmeriCares’ website. AmeriCares’ aid may thus prove an important component in supplementing some of the infrastructural support that was lost in the cyclone.

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: AmeriCares, The Huffington Post, UNICEF, William Grimes

dry spell
February 2014 was the driest month in Singapore since 1869. Only seven brief sprinkles fell, giving the area an underwhelming .2 mm of rain. Malaysia has also felt the drought’s impact, as the state of Selangor and the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, have begun water rationing.

Singapore relies heavily on Malaysia for its water supply, importing nearly 60% of its water from the region. Under a 1962 water agreement, Singapore imports most of its water from the Malay state of Johore. The agreement has caused tension between the two countries in the past, and Singapore has decided not to pursue a renewal of the agreement past its 2061 expiration.

Therefore, Singapore has increasingly focused on improving its water self-sufficiency. Currently, Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources estimates that Singapore could potentially provide up to 55% of the country’s water needs. The government has increasingly emphasized building up desalination and recycled water technology while also pushing to increase the country’s water catchment area.

Unfortunately, Singapore’s current water supply does not stack up to the potential effects of the current drought. The National Environment Agency predicts the dry spell will continue into early March. With the poor weather set to continue in both Singapore and Malaysia, water consumption in the area must decrease accordingly.

Resultantly, the Singaporean government has started a public campaign urging water conservation. It has encouraged citizens to cut down on washing cars, irrigating plants and to be more conscious about switching off water faucets and fountains in between use.

Through increasing the water consciousness of its citizenry, Singapore hopes to effectively combat its water shortage.

As of yet, the drought in Singapore has not had a profound effect on the lives of Singaporeans. However, it has reaffirmed Singapore’s vulnerability to water shortages and droughts and demonstrated the need for water conservation initiatives within the city-state. If Singapore will achieve water-self sufficiency it must prepare itself to withstand episodes such as the current drought.

Martin Levy

Sources: Today Online, BBC News, NEA, Singapore Infopedia
Photo: Brohenson Files


Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines on November 8, trumps the power of Hurricane Katrina, according to weather officials, and is projected to cause damage to more than 700,000 homes, according to NBC.

The American Red Cross estimates that Haiyan could affect more than 10 million people, and right now relief effort is still in the beginning stages. Unfortunately, due to the strong winds that occur during a typhoon, the power has been knocked out for parts of the country making relief efforts difficult, according to NBC.

Weather officials say that Typhoon Haiyan had winds of 147 mph with gusts of wind up to 170 mph by the time it hit landfall Friday. That is comparable to a Category 4 Hurricane in the United States. According to The Washington post, hurricanes and typhoons are basically the same thing but are just called different things in different parts of the world. Right now the main concern, and the biggest cause of death, is flooding from heavy rains.

Right now the American Red Cross is in kind of a bind because they can’t help until the Philippines ask for it, so right now they are “watching and waiting, just like everybody else.” It is impossible to know the exact amount of damage in the Philippines right now and exactly how much help they need. On top of this typhoon disaster, an earthquake hit the Philippines last month and killed around 150 people, according to the Red Cross.

The good news is the Philippines was prepared for the disaster, President Benigno Aquino III assured the public. He said they had “war-like preparations” along with air force cargo planes and military helicopters on standby. However, the Philippines still need help.

Here are four ways people can help:

1. Donate Money

The American Red Cross is always a good place to concentrate donations, but Operation USA is also asking for donations. There are so many places to donate money for the Philippines. Even the red cross as a simple text to donate policy where you can donate as little as 5 cents. To Donate at the Red Cross call: 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit the American Red Cross website. To donate with Operation USA, mail a check to Operation USA at P.O. Box 36188, Los Angeles, CA 90031-0188

2. Donate Food/Supplies

Donating money is the obvious choice but sending supplies and non-perishable food items to the Philippines is another great idea. There are many organizations that will also allow you to donate food. This is a great option for those who are worried about where the money is going. Make sure to go online and look at what can and can’t be used in that area. According to National Public Radio, 60 percent of food items and supplies that are sent as disaster relief can’t be used.

3. Give Blood

When disaster strikes a country one of the easiest things we can do in America is to give blood. Giving one pint of blood can save up to three people, according to the Red Cross. Visit a local blood bank or your cities local chapter of the American Red Cross to give.

4. Go to the Philippines

Actually going to help the Philippines to  out is a huge commitment and there are some things one should note before they traipse down there expecting to have a huge impact. Going with an organized agency is the best way to make sure one is being helpful as opposed to just getting in the way.

– Molly Mahannah

Sources: NBC Los Angeles, Red Cross
Photo: Parade

The Philippines, an island nation off the coast of Asia, is extremely prone to massive typhoons and other various tropical storms. The nation is located in the Pacific Ocean, an area that is a hot spot for dangerous, titanic storms. The Philippines are located in such a fashion that they rarely go over a year without a significant storm impacting the islands.

Super Typhoon Haiyan, a tropical typhoon with wind speeds equal to a type 5 hurricane, is making a beeline towards the archipelago, and it is widely regarded as the strongest storm to materialize on the planet this year. For the Filipino people; super typhoon could not come at a worse time. However, measures can be done in preparation for the natural disaster, but no number of precautions will stop super typhoon Haiyan from inflicting damaging blows to the Philippines.

Luckily, typhoons do not develop overnight. Despite this reassurance, no amount of preparation will help a nation avoid major damages. For an area like the Philippines, the inhabitants understand the dangerous location of their country. The Philippines have already released a typhoon warning to effectively encourage the people to either evacuate or take proper refuge in their homes.

Planning to ride out any storm in a house is risky, but sometimes it is the only option. To retain residence in a house, having a substantial supply of clean water and long-lasting food is crucial to survival. Turning off any electrical currents to the household will also help. Always be prepared with raincoats and other heavy weather gear, in the instance that the storm forces the inhabitants outside.   If this does not happen, do not leave the home. Staying inside will provide significantly more sustainable protection from the storm’s reaches.

For the Filipino people, they must recover from another natural disaster and prepare for super typhoon Haiyan simultaneously.  A powerful earthquake ravaged certain islands of the Philippines, collapsing several buildings and causing multiple deaths. With Haiyan on the horizon, many other buildings and people will add to this terrible toll.

The Philippines offer little to no protection from Haiyan. The island routinely faces powerful storms, but there are few storms that have reached the power that super typhoon Haiyan boasts.  Many Filipinos will seek to leave the island for the time being, which is undoubtedly the safest option. However, the common people and classes lower than such will be forced to braze the storm in their homeland.  These people deserve to receive the blessings and prayers from all reaches of the world, as they prepare for impending disaster and the following destruction.

– Zachary Wright

Sources: Washington PostCNNAccuWeatherPrepare Now
Photo: Marketing to China

Whenever conflict or disaster hits a particular region of the world, one of the logistical challenges which must first be overcome is getting aid to every person that needs it in the shortest amount of time.

For this reason, aid agencies are piloting new access technologies to provide innovative solutions to old problems. Here are five promising ideas that are already being tested in different parts of the world:

The first is a digital school in a box. In order to create an environment where children have access to quality learning anytime and anywhere, UNICEF is piloting the “Digital School in a Box”. Sixty schools in Uganda, with about 100 and 200 children, have been given a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with a speaker, a projector, a document camera and Internet connectivity.

The objective is to connect children in rural schools and health centers to outside learning networks and tools. The kit can also be used to connect rural communities to health resources, emergency information, and entertainment.

Mobile phones to monitor food insecurity are second. In areas where roads have been badly damaged, information concerning food availability can be hard to gather. To solve this problem, the UN World Food Programme has typically conducted face-to-face surveys to collect information on how many people lack access to food, who they are, and where they live.

Since this requires a considerable amount of time and resources, the agency is now using SMS polls to monitor food insecurity through simple questions concerning meal patterns. The solution is being piloted in the Democratic Republic of Congo and will soon be tested in Somalia as well.

Third is to use mobile phones to find missing children. In order to speed up the process of reuniting children with their parents after a conflict or disaster, UNICEF is piloting RapidFTR, an open-source mobile phone application. The result of a master’s thesis, the innovation allows aid workers to quickly upload the child’s vital information and photograph to a central database that can be accessed by other UN agencies and NGOs.

With the help of humanitarian workers that have authorized access to the database, parents can verify if their missing children have been registered. Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children are currently testing the application in eastern Uganda, where many people from the Democratic Republic of Congo have sought refuge.

3-D printing spare parts is fourth innovation to help get aid to disaster hit communities. Although the cost of 3-D printing are still high, global experts are considering the possibilities of using this technology to provide disaster-hit areas in the developing world with access to things like irrigation pipes, farming tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades, spare parts for machinery, and health aids.

Since the digital model of any of these objects – which typically require significant time and money to be imported – could be downloaded and printed out, usually in thin layers of plastic at a time, innovators believe that low-cost 3-D printing could have many uses in the developing world. Last May, global experts met in Italy to discuss the implications of this technology for sustainable development.

The fifth and last innovation is the standardized data collection for feeding programs. In order to provide feeding programs with a standardized method for data collection that can be used for admissions and discharges, specialized software called Minimum Reporting Package has been devised.

Now in use by Save the Children UK, WFP, and Concern Worldwide, the innovation allows agencies to better monitor the efficacy of Supplementary Feeding Programs, as well as quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

-Nayomi Chibana

Sources: IRIN, Humanitarian Innovation Fund, World Food Programme
Photo: The Virtual Underground