Answering despair with hope in the Philippines

By November 21, 2013
(Photo by Baptist Global Response)

(Photo by Baptist Global Response)

Philippines (BGR/MNN) — Typhoon Haiyan’s trail of despair extends far into the rural parts of the Philippines.

Damage has been deemed “catastrophic.” Jeff Palmer with Baptist Global Response says, “People battened down the hatches just like they usually did because the Philippine government and people are prepared for these types of ¬†things. But this one was so massive: imagine a three-to-five-mile wide tornado going through an area, wiping out everything. Nobody was really prepared for that.”

While three or four major islands were hit, there are hundreds of smaller islands that suffered massive damage. In some cases, the islands were stripped bare by the typhoon, leaving no sign of residents.¬† Palmer says, “We have about four responses going on right now. We’re working in the north part of Cebu in three different areas, and then also in Panai, which is one of the islands that got hit very strongly.”

Since November 7, battered survivors in these areas have been cut off from easy access to relief supplies. “There’s no water, there’s no electricity; food shortages are already there–not just the area you’ve seen on the news, but several hundred areas just like that,” explains Palmer. As part of their response, BGR teams are helping distribute relief kits to 449 families living on Gibitngil Island.

Resources provided by Global Hunger Relief (formerly the World Hunger Fund) were used to purchase rice, canned meat, sugar, powdered milk, ramen noodles, and Nescafe for the kits. These supplies provide enough food for a five-member household for one week. Right now, the island’s only water source is rainwater.

(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)

(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)

“It’s a place that nobody else is going,” Ben Wolf said. Wolf and his wife, Pam, are the directors for BGR work in the Asia Rim. “We want to touch the fringes where no one else has gone.” That has its own challenges.

According to BGR reports, plans to send a relief team on November 19 to Ormoc City on Leyte Island, east of Cebu, had to be changed. Boats from Ormoc back to Cebu are booked solid for more than a week, and gasoline there is being rationed: it has doubled in price to about $8 a gallon.

Finding more rice and canned goods for the distributions also is a concern, because store and warehouse shelves in Cebu are pretty empty. Transporting relief supplies also is going to be very difficult because items are pilfered at every opportunity along the way.

Relief efforts also are complicated by the lack of electricity in many places. Many communities that would otherwise have water are without because their pumps can’t run without electricity.

bgrtyphoon3Palmer says they’re preparing for more than emergency aid. “This is going to be a long-term response. It’s not going to happen overnight. We will be there several years to help them recover from this disaster event.”

Planning and coordination are the challenges in the days ahead. Second wave emergencies come from cleanup injuries and waterborne diseases. BGR is planning for that eventuality, too. “I’ve got a team going in next week [to do] a larger assessment from medical to water sanitation. They’ll be on the ground.”

More than that, though, the BGR teams will be answering the despair with the hope of Christ.¬†Evangelical work in the region has been slow, although it hasn’t been closed. As the teams act in the name of Christ, Palmer says, “We’re asking people to pray for the responders. Pray for those who are in need. Read through the stories. Get on our list to get the prayer updates daily that will help [you] understand how better to pray for what is happening right now in the Philippines.”

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