Start with a nation of 7,000 islands, riddled with poverty, a booming population and substandard construction. Place that country in the area of the world most frequently visited by powerful, destructive typhoons.
It’s a recipe for the kind of disaster that struck the Philippines on Friday when one of the fiercest typhoons ever recorded swept across vast regions of the country. Winds topped 200 miles per hour and tidal surges rose above two-story buildings, leaving thousands dead, cities leveled and millions of lives disrupted by Typhoon Haiyan.
The immediate needs of the displaced and injured survivors should be of paramount concern to the global community, to nations, world relief organizations and businesses, and individuals who want to lend a helping hand.
Initial reports from the stricken areas suggest that the relief effort is off to a shaky start, delayed by damage to airports, roads and bridges. The logistics of getting food, water, medicine and temporary shelter to areas that need it the most is difficult at best. The problem is compounded by the fact that emergency responders, government officials and the military in the Philippines are victims of the storm as well.
In the days and weeks ahead, the storm damage will require an outpouring of humanitarian aid from across the globe. The South Sound community can help in that effort.
Here is a list — by no means complete — of some of the relief agencies that are accepting donations to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Check their web sites for more information.
• The United Nations World Food Programme has set up an online donation page to help get food and resources to the heavily damaged regions as quick as possible.
• UNICEF seeks donations to help children receive medical supplies and clean drinking water, which are two precious commodities in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Without clean water children will be exposed to dirty water that can lead to disease, even death.
• The Citizens Disaster Response Center is an on-the-ground organization in the Philippines that offers community-based disaster management.
• Mercy Corps is a relief agency with a Pacific Northwest office in Portland,. Visit mercy-corps.org/typhoon for more information.
• The Salvation Army and American Red Cross are two more organizations that are equipped to help and are accepting donations.
• Save the Children donations are another way to get relief to children and families in the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam. Here’s an important point: 10 percent of the donations directed to Save the Children will go to preparing for future disasters in the area.
The countries prone to typhoons and other natural disasters often have too many people living too close to the shoreline in structures and homes that can’t hold up when subjected to hurricane-force winds. Even more significant is our inability to forecast devastating tidal surges such as those produced by Typhoon Haiyan.
Sea-level rise and climate change make these areas even more vulnerable to future storms. .
Clearly, there is much work to be done to help restore the storm-struck Philippines to normalcy. Even more work must be done to learn from today’s tragic lessons and help make coastal communities more storm-proof. It’s important to direct a portion of relief aid to the task of making these disaster zones more resilient.