Philippines: UN agencies ready to assist in wake of typhoon


As slow-moving Typhoon Koppu brought intense rains and flooding to the Philippines that forced tens of thousands from their homes, the United Nations today lauded the storm-prone country’s early preparedness efforts as having minimized damage to life and property, with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) nevertheless expressing concern for children stranded in remote areas.

After the typhoon made landfall Sunday morning, UNICEF and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) noted that the Government’s preparedness programme had paid off. The head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Margareta Wahlström, praised the Philippines Government for its efforts to reduce mortality and the numbers of people affected by the typhoon.

“The communication of early warnings in the Philippines has improved significantly since Typhoon Haiyan claimed over 6,000 lives in November 2013. Last December, major loss of life was averted by large-scale evacuations in the face of Typhoon Hagupit,” said Ms. Wahlström in a press release.

“Now again this weekend, Government agencies have been successful in reducing loss of life through the effective communication of early warnings and organizing targeted evacuations in the areas most affected by Typhoon Koppu,” she continued. “President Benigno Aquino’s broadcast to the nation on Friday evening was especially important in alerting the population to the threat.” Ms. Wahlström also noted that regular updates from weather bureau PAGASA and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council had helped guide the actions of local governments, the private sector, the Red Cross and others.

“The Philippines is the most storm-exposed country in the world and its expertise in disaster risk management can be usefully adopted by other countries trying to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted in March this year as a global blueprint for reducing disaster losses,” she added. UNICEF also praised the country’s actions in preparation for the typhoon.

“UNICEF notes that the government’s preparedness and early action in pre-emptive evacuation and widespread public information have minimized damage to life and property,” the UN agency saidin a statement. “UNICEF also activated its emergency preparedness measures days before the typhoon struck the archipelago. In any disaster, children are the most vulnerable.”

UNICEF said that, according to Government reports, 55,554 people have been evacuated due to the typhoon, and more than 12,125 families are staying in 136 evacuation centres. Assessments will continue in the coming week to confirm numbers and the full extent of the typhoon’s impact, said UNICEF. “UNICEF’s first priority is to ensure children are safe and protected. Following a typhoon, children face risks from contaminated water sources, lack of food, epidemics such as cholera, hypothermia, diarrhea and pneumonia,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander said.

UNICEF is appealing for $2.8 million to replenish its supplies; Typhoon Koppu, it notes, is the twelfth tropical cyclone to enter the Philippines this year, and the country usually experiences over 20 typhoons a year. This year is predicted to bring more intense typhoons as a result of El Niño. “There is already another Typhoon, Champi, looming on the Philippines.”

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a regional statement on El Niño and its potential impact on Pacific Islands, noting that the weather phenomenon “will continue to have a significant influence on the climate and ocean in most parts of the Pacific Islands region for the remainder of 2015 and much of 2016.”

The organization noted that the “risk of a typhoon in the western and central north Pacific is above normal for the remainder of 2015,” adding that the islands will have a high risk of “serious effects from some combination of high winds, storm surges, large waves, and/or extreme rainfall associated with a typhoon.” WMO also said that tropical cyclone numbers “are expected to be elevated for a majority of the Pacific Island countries close to or east of the International Date Line, and their tracks may be less predictable.”

It noted that “drier than normal conditions are already being experienced in parts of the southwest Pacific and north Pacific. These conditions are likely to continue for several months. It is likely that some of these locations will experience a prolonged drought in the year ahead. In contrast, above normal rainfall is likely to continue in the central equatorial Pacific.” Changes in sea level are also likely to occur, as well as a heightened risk of coral bleaching, and impacts on drinking water supplies.