Philippines (MNN) — If you live in central or southern Philippines, the last six months have been brutal.
Battered by an earthquake, typhoons, and conflict, the region is now experiencing floods and mudslides in an area evacuated three months ago to escape Typhoon Haiyan’s fury.
There is no relief in sight for the southern Philippines, though. Baptist Global Response Executive Director Jeff Palmer says, “On top of that, now with the responses going on, we have the lesser typhoons and the storms that are hitting that are hampering relief efforts.”
A visit from Tropical Storm Lingling, (Agaton) added to the monsoon season, dropping nearly four feet of rain since January 1. The heavy flooding and mudslides have displaced 200,000, with the total affected hovering somewhere near 800,000.
Once more, the remote areas are the last to get help. Palmer explains, “We’re having trouble getting into some of the areas…and getting supplies in, having to delay schedules because of choppy seas.” Forecasters expect more rain to fall during the week, so conditions won’t be improving in the near future.
However, Southern Baptists and their partners are formulating a longer-term strategy for helping affected people rebuild their lives, says Palmer. “Many of the areas that we’re working in, we’re still coordinating with the government. We’re still doing a little bit of food distribution. I just looked at the list: we did a little bit over a thousand families this month. That’s tapering off because food is becoming more available.”
With so many global crises, response has been lackluster. However, Palmer says the need now is greater than ever before. “This is when the real work begins because we’re looking at several years of rebuilding and helping people get back, re-established to where they were before the storm. A majority of them aren’t: they’ve just lost everything.”
The community development team is visiting villages, interviewing survivors to find out where their help is most needed. “We are back into institution and home reconstruction. Schools are a big thing. In the five areas we’re working in, we’re looking at 200+ schools. Some of that’s getting a roof back on; some of that is actually rebuilding whole buildings.”
Resources are finite. The restoration fund is just over a million dollars. Over the last couple of months, BGR used roughly a third of that in the recovery efforts. In about six months, unless they get some help, the fund will be at extremely low levels. $15 feeds a family of 5 for a week.
A little prayer and hard work goes a long way in a developing nation, too, adds Palmer. While the Philippines is the top Christian nation in Asia, “there are a lot of people there who still have not heard the Gospel. We’re finding this over and over in the places where we’re responding. [We're] helping to build a home, but also talking about the foundation we all need to build upon, which is our faith in Jesus Christ.”