International Organization for Migration seeks more US funds for ‘Sendong’ victims

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MANILA, Philippines – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is hoping to receive additional funding from the US and other international donors for the victims of tropical storm “Sendong.”

IOM Philippines chief of mission Ovais Sarmad yesterday said the IOM, which has deployed 30 staff to Cagayan de Oro, has so far received $1 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and 700,000 euros from the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission (ECHO).

The donations had been earmarked for emergency shelter materials, essential non-food relief items and evacuation center repairs for the victims in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan City and Dumaguete.

“This disaster has effectively left these people with nothing and the needs are huge. We are also hoping to receive additional funding from the United States and other international donors in the coming days,” Sarmad said.

The IOM is already distributing emergency shelter and non-food relief item kits, including plastic sheeting, sleeping mats, jerry cans and other essential items to families willing and able to return to their communities from evacuation centers.

The group has also started repair work at the centers, where camp managers have identified water, sanitation and hygiene facilities as an urgent priority.

The IOM is currently constructing temporary bathing facilities in Macasandig Covered Courts, one of the largest evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro, where 300 families are being sheltered.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, as the IASC Cluster lead agency for Camp Coordination and Camp Management in Natural Disasters, IOM immediately deployed teams to assess needs in evacuation centers, displacement sites and other affected communities.

It also participated in a joint assessment mission with government line agencies led by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the Mindanao Humanitarian Team (MHT.)

Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, two of the hardest hit by Sendong, are now struggling to provide shelter for over 10,000 families in 42 makeshift evacuation centers, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD.)

“Right now we are focusing on three main priorities identified jointly with the DWSD and our partner agencies in the camp coordination, camp management and emergency shelter clusters,” says IOM Emergency Program Manager Dave Bercasio.

Bercasio said they are trying to identify and provide alternative spaces for displaced people sheltering in schools, so that classes can resume next month.

“The second is to provide emergency shelter materials for families who are willing and able to return to their home communities. And the third is to upgrade or repair evacuation centers that are not equipped to safely accommodate displaced people,” Bercasio said.

Cash allowances

The DSWD, on the other hand, announced it would still continue giving cash grants to their conditional cash transfer (CCT) beneficiaries affected by Sendong even if they failed to comply with the education and health conditions.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said that they have waived the health and education conditions for their CCT beneficiaries who were badly hit by the recent storm.

Soliman said the beneficiaries would still be entitled to receive their cash grants that cover the month of November and December. The grant will be released this January.

Qualified beneficiaries receive as much as P1,400 provided that they comply with conditions set by the DSWD such as sending their children to school and regular medical checkups in health centers.

“We have waived the non-compliance of the co-responsibilities of the beneficiaries such as going to the health center and school attendance because we understand the ordeal that they are going through,” Soliman said.

She explained that this is out of consideration of the plight of people in Sendong affected areas.

Drinking water

The military, along with the US Marines in Palawan, has redeployed its water purifying machines to provide potable water to the thousands of evacuees in Cagayan de Oro City.

Regional military spokesman Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV said troops from the National Development Command (Nadescom) were accompanied by USMC Forces Experimentation Center to install water-purifying machines at the flood-stricken Barangays Patag and Makasanding in the city.

“Our troops along with the forces from the Armed Forces of the Philippines-National Development Command under Lt. Gen. Carlos Holganza are now in the two barangays to ensure that thousands of evacuees will have safe water to drink,” Osias said.

On the other hand, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the Department of Health (DOH) are fast-tracking the relocation plan of the evacuees near Lumbia airport.

NDRRMC and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) chief Benito Ramos said aside from relocation, one of their main concerns is to control the spread of diseases in various evacuation centers.

Forensic help

Meanwhile, scientists, doctors, engineers and forensic experts from the University of the Philippines Diliman and Manila have grouped to help the thousands of evacuees left devastated by the storm.

UP president Alfredo Pascual said the “UP Padayon Disaster Response Team” had already conducted a quick ocular inspection of calamity sites in Iligan City last Dec. 27 to 29 to map out a comprehensive master plan to recover from its current crisis.

Pascual said that UP would come back and continue their coordination with the Iligan City local government to assist in the management of evacuation centers, the identification of still unidentified bodies, and the delivery of much-needed medical services to the thousands of survivors.

Dr. J. Prospero de Vera, UP vice president for public affairs and director of UP’s National Center for Public Administration and Governance Center for Policy and Executive Development, said the local government of Iligan was a crucial factor in the state university’s decision to go all out in putting their manpower and logistical resources to aid the stricken city.

“The local government of Iligan has been extremely supportive of our undertaking. We can’t ask for anything more,” De Vera said.

“We were impressed by how efficient the local government is given the devastation,” he added.

The efficiency of Iligan City was a big contrast to Cagayan de Oro where the disorganized local government blocked efforts to help from concerned groups, De Vera said.

“Cagayan de Oro is in shambles because of the local government,” De Vera said. – With Evelyn Macairan, Rainier Allan Ronda, Jaime Laude, Ric Sapnu


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