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Why Typhoon Mangkhut Hit Poor People the Hardest in the Philippines
On September 15, the Philippines was struck by a massive typhoon. Winds were blowing at 210 km/h, gusting up to 285 km/h. The most recent death toll was 81 with dozens still missing. The World Meteorological Organization has named the storm the “strongest tropical cyclone the world has faced this year.” As with most other natural disasters, Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines hit the poorest populations the hardest.

Landslides

Deadly landslides occurred as a result of overflowing rivers. One of the most disastrous was in Itogen, a remote northern mining town. Emergency workers used shovels and their bare hands to recover the bodies of forty people from the debris. Of the victims, almost all are impoverished gold miners and their family members. Officers in the area told people to find safe shelter prior to the typhoon, but many stayed behind to work the tunnels where they perished.

In Naga, Cebu, landslides wiped out 30 homes in two rural villages, killing 18 people while 64 others are still missing. At least seven of the villagers were rescued after sending text messages calling for help. Too many farmers did not leave quickly enough because they were trying to harvest their crops before the storm or landslides destroyed them.

Authorities say that the typhoon was particularly damaging in the central northern mountainous Cordillera region (CAR), which is composed of the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province and the cities of Baguio and Tabuk. Populations that live in these mountains are heavily indigenous and predominantly poor, with 17.1 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Most farmers who live there grow rice, and their margin of income is very thin at best.

According to an article in First Point: “Poverty has forced many to live on or near volcanoes, steep mountains and storm-vulnerable coasts, often leading to disasters.” So, it is the poorest populations that bear the brunt of the destruction.

Massive Flooding

The flash flooding that has resulted from Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines has been disastrous for rural farmers. Mangkhut swamped farm fields in the north, where much of the agriculture is located. Unfortunately, the typhoon came a month after severe monsoon rains that had already made these provinces vulnerable to disaster. Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol predicts a total of 1.5 million farmers and over 100,000 fishing communities will be impacted by the typhoon.

The flooding was so bad that rice fields in Iguig could be mistaken for the town’s river. Oxfam’s April Bulanadi said of the disaster: “While I was able to see some farmers desperately harvesting crops the day before the storm hit, it was clear many were not able to do so. This is heartbreaking because it was supposed to be harvest season next month. This will have devastating impacts on small farmers, many of whom are still recovering from Typhoon Haima in 2016.” Some farmers lost their lives in the floods, but those who left in time will still lose their income due to lost and damaged crops.

The Aftermath of the Typhoon

The only current solution is to support the recovery of the victims of Typhoon Mangkhut. Clean water and materials needed to build shelters for those who have lost their homes are being sent by organizations such as Oxfam. Getting through to the villages has been problematic since the airport was also hit by the typhoon.

Maria Rosario Felizco, Oxfam Philippines Country Director, said that “we must also anticipate that the survivors of Typhoon Mangkhut, especially small fishers and farmers who have lost their source of income, will need support far beyond the first few days of this response.” However, aid is not the only thing that the country needs. Changes also need to be made in order to prevent disasters like this from completely destroying the livelihoods of poor farmers.

Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines was tragic. For those living in poverty, the storm directly posed a threat to their lives, work and homes all at once. The typhoon was particularly detrimental to the country’s poorest citizens because of their location and the devastating loss they must now endure due to destroyed crops.

Evann Orleck-Jetter
Photo: Flickr

Ecuador_Aid

On April 16, 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador left many citizens displaced and without access to clean water.

According to The New York Times, at least 410 people died and over 2,000 were injured. As more long-term solutions are being sought and developed, temporary relief efforts are being made by international organizations and local communities alike.

The United Nations refugee agency sent supplies to help those displaced by the earthquake in Ecuador. The first supply plane was loaded in Copenhagen, with 900 tents, 15,000 sleeping mats, kitchen utensils and, with the threat of the Zika virus still looming, 18,000 repellent-soaked mosquito nets.

“The aim is to provide essential shelter and other aid material over the next days for some 40,000 people…in earthquake-affected communities,” the organization said in a statement, just after the natural disaster took place.

Soon after the disaster, UNICEF delivered 20,000 water purification tablets to the survivors of the earthquake. Water contamination after an earthquake greatly increases the rate at which diseases and illnesses spread.

Of note, stagnant water increases the number of breeding sites for mosquitoes. This means that the Zika virus and dengue fever, another mosquito-borne virus, pose immediate threats to Ecuador.

Portoviejo, the provincial capital of Manabi Province, was one of the cities that was affected the most by the earthquake. The city, with a population of 300,000, has a death toll of approximately 100 and 370 buildings were destroyed. With no homes to go back to, many are sleeping on the streets.

“Clean water is one of the biggest needs. People have made signs everywhere asking for water,” said Lucy Harman, CARE Emergency Team Leader. CARE is a humanitarian organization that provides disaster relief and fights poverty across the globe.

“Everything is destroyed, so everyone is sleeping outside in makeshift shelters and the smell of death permeates the air,” Harman reported from Jama, another one of the areas hardest hit by the earthquake. According to a report by Reuters, CARE is also distributing temporary water tanks as well as purification tablets.

Michelle Simon

Photo: Flickr

AmeriCares
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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXXk1U7HgSw

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

Nepal_Recovery
On July 29, Senator Cardin (D-MD), a Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Kirk (R-IL) introduced the Nepal Recovery Act in the Senate. This act would provide humanitarian assistance to the Nepalese people, given that there were two earthquakes that killed 8,700 people in April and May.

The Nepal Recovery Act approves funding for over three years to help Nepal rebuild infrastructure, like schools and hospitals. Over 47,000 classrooms and 1,000 health facilities were destroyed around Kathmandu after the earthquake. This act would help Nepal rebuild and gain back infrastructure, schools, and health clinics that were destroyed.

Additionally, the legislation aims to help the Nepalese economy. Nepal has a GDP of about 19 billion and a population of 27.8 million, making Nepal one of the poorer countries in the world. Additionally, the earthquake has caused one million people to fall below the poverty line. The Nepal Recovery Act takes measures to stimulate the economy, so the Nepalese people can move on from this tragedy.

The legislation includes debt relief and promotes donor transparency in the reconstruction effort. The bill allows the Administration to tap the private sector to support Nepal.

The bill would also designate resources to prevent trafficking of children following the earthquake. Nepal already has a human trafficking problem, but the earthquake has exacerbated the problem. The bill aims to protect children and stop traffickers from taking advantage of the crisis situation.

Currently, this bill has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is clear that Nepal needs substantial humanitarian aid following the earthquakes earlier this year. This bill considers improving infrastructure, improving the economy, and preventing trafficking in Nepal. Since this bill would provide aid for over three years, Nepal could have sufficient time to rebuild. After the Nepalese people recover from this earthquake, the country can more easily and rapidly combat poverty.

Ella Cady

Sources: Senate 1, Senate 2, Huffington Post, India Times
Photo: Flickr