UMCOR Responds to Philippines Typhoon
September 28, 2009 – The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Philippines is working with its local partners including Action by Churches Together (ACT) and the National Council of Churches to provide relief to those affected by Typhoon Ketsana, also called Ondoy, in the Philippines. According to the National Disaster Coordination Council (NDCC) nearly half a million people are affected. Hours of heavy rain and high winds caused flashfloods and landslides. 144 people are confirmed dead, and that number is expected to rise as new deaths are reported.
Over the weekend, the government declared a "state of calamity" in Manila and the 25 storm-hit provinces. While the damage is widespread, residential areas in Manila, Muntinlupa and Taguig are the hardest hit. The BBC reports that 80% of Manila is underwater, displacing 450,000 people.
Melissa Crutchfield, executive for UMCOR’s International Disaster Response says, “Because of the extent of the flooding, we are in the beginning stages of assessing the damage. UMCOR will work quickly to understand the situation and respond where we are needed.”
Many submerged areas are still unreachable. Most residents rely on cell phones for communication and are without power to charge the batteries. Because of the lack of communication, it is difficult to know where people are stranded.
Because of the flash floods, people were forced to flee to their rooftops to avoid being swept away. Others left the affected area and are staying in overcrowded shelters. In a country where many people struggle with hunger and poverty, the conditions in the evacuation center are presenting increased hardships. NDCC reports that limited food, water and sanitation facilities pose the risk of worsening health conditions.
According to Crutchfield, UMCOR Philippines will begin immediate relief activities with the distribution of emergency provisions including bottled water, blankets canned fish and rice. UMCOR Philippines anticipates expanding the response through Bishop Tangonan and local church disaster response coordinators as well as an ACT appeal proposal.
Says Crutchfield, “Some of the most vulnerable people are street vendors and tricycle drivers who have lost not only their homes, but also their livelihoods. In addition to the immediate needs of food, clothing and medicine, our response will seek out those most affected by this storm and help them rebuild their lives.”
UMCOR Philippines opened in July 2009. Based on the campus of Union Theological Seminary in Cavite, about 50 miles south of Manila, the office provides a ministry of presence while serving as a hub to facilitate communication between United Methodist conferences within the Philippines and with the US. In addition to establishing a field presence, it offers an on-site storage facility for material goods and relief supplies. UMCOR Philippines furthers the work of Global Ministries through the Global Health Initiative, the initiative for Ministry with the Poor and Disaster Relief and Development.