Filippino Christians finding solace in a grim Christmas

By December 27, 2013
(Photo courtesy Food For the Hungry)

(Photo courtesy Food For the Hungry)

Philippines (MNN) — The Christmas season isn’t over in the Philippines. The country’s official observance is from December 16 to Epiphany, January 9. The deeply devout nation has also earned the distinction of celebrating the world’s longest Christmas season.

However, survivors of the Philippines’ deadliest typhoon are celebrating surrounded by mud as heavy rain drove many inside their flimsy shelters.

To get a scale of the destruction, over the course of less than 24 hours, super Typhoon Haiyan affected more than 14 million people in 44 provinces in the central Philippines, displaced more than 4 million residents, damaged about 1 million houses and left nearly 1,800 people missing, according to a report by the United Nations.

It is the largest typhoon to hit land in recorded history, and it will take years for the country to fully recover. Pete Howard with Food For the Hungry recently returned from some of their work sites. “I flew into the Tacloban area, which is devastated. It looked very much like the tsunami I remember working in, back in Indonesia: just complete devastation, people living in very difficult conditions even as they try to rebuild their lives.”

With buildings smashed to pieces and trees snapped in half, water continues to flood streets leaving most places unlivable. Yet, the story is no longer holding front-page attention. During his visit this week to some of the hardest-hit areas, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged, “We must not allow this to be another forgotten crisis.” He went on to announce the Government’s strategic plan, amounting to some $8.17 billion over four years.

(Photo courtesy Food For the Hungry)

(Photo courtesy Food For the Hungry)

The plan aims to restore the economic and social conditions of the affected areas at the very least to pre-typhoon levels and to create a higher level of disaster resilience. That’s not to say the people aren’t resilient, Howard notes. “I saw hundreds of homes already starting to be rebuilt from the rubble and talked with families who are rebuilding. These families didn’t even ask for help.” Yet, he says, this is what they face: “There are people that, every day, are going to be living out in the elements, trying to find protection from the rain, trying to ensure that they have meals for their children.”

The most vulnerable people, particularly in remote islands and areas, remain food-insecure and highly dependent on food assistance. Since November 8, survivors are searching through the rubble for food and water and a safe place to rest. Howard says, “Food For the Hungry purposely chose an area that was underserved, a very poor area of southern Samar. In fact, we were the first NGO (Non-Government Organization) to come alongside those people.”

(Photo courtesy Food For the Hungry)

(Photo courtesy Food For the Hungry)

FH staff was already in the region working when Haiyan hit. For that reason, they were able to get in immediately and were able “to distribute the most needed items: food, blankets, and hygiene kits, as well as beginning to help people with things like child protection–making sure children are safe in conflicts and emergencies.”

Electricity remains spotty, further complicating recovery. However, despite all the challenges facing the survivors, there is hope.

As believers come alongside their communities, they are bringing the warmth of Christ’s love by providing them with shelter and food. Howard says, “I am incredibly encouraged by the response of the Filipino Christian community, and even just the community leaders. They are a very resilient people.” As believers come alongside their communities, they are bringing the warmth of Christ’s love by providing them with shelter and food.

Please join Food for the Hungry (FH) in providing Filipinos with:
• Food
• Shelter
• Medicines for sick children and parents
• Safe areas for children to play
• Love and support in Jesus’ name

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