The United States has increased to more than $37 million its funding for emergency relief in areas of the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda.
The United States originally committed $20 million in relief after the November 8 typhoon, reaching thousands of families with plastic sheeting for homes, soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper and other sanitary supplies.
International donors also have increased their assistance. As of November 18, those donors had pledged more than $182 million to help people affected by the typhoon, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reports.
This is the fifth time since 2009 that USAID has been called to respond to a major typhoon in the Philippines, according to Jeremy Konyndyk, the agency's director of foreign disaster assistance.
Konyndyk said preparedness and quick action were critical to the U.S. response to the most recent crisis. Because USAID's weather experts helped predict the storm's approach, the agency was able to dispatch an advance disaster response team to the Philippines capital of Manila, north of the typhoon's destructive path. Within 24 hours of the storm's passage through the center of the country, the team was able to reach that area and begin to identify immediate needs.
According to USAID and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), access to affected areas has improved in recent days as debris is cleared and roads and bridges are repaired. In addition, the Philippines military says all airports in the region are now operational, although some at limited capacity.
Fuel provisions coordinated by USAID, the U.S. Defense Department and the Philippines military enabled the water treatment plant in the city of Tacloban to resume bringing service to 200,000 people. OCHA says repairs are underway on a network of smaller pipes. Tacloban is the capital of Leyte province and was one of the hardest-hit areas.
To minimize sanitation risks, the U.S. Defense Department plans to construct additional latrines in Tacloban and surrounding areas, USAID reports.
USAID continues to procure trucks, barges and other vehicles for the distribution of emergency aid. The disaster response team has established an operating base in Tacloban and posted a logistics officer and a military liaison officer at the city's airport to coordinate aid distribution with humanitarian groups.
As of November 18, 796,000 people in need in Leyte province had received emergency rice, high-energy biscuits and canned food from the United Nations World Food Programme with $15 million in U.S. support, USAID reports. WFP plans to set up logistical hubs in Roxas city and Capiz province to improve aid distribution, USAID says.
In cooperation with the United Nations, relief groups have distributed rice and vegetable seeds and farming tools to 11,300 farming families. The U.N. stresses that farmers need these supplies by mid-December to replant their fields and secure a harvest in the period of March-April.
"As more and more aid from the U.S. and many others — from countries to charities to individual donors — begins to reach the Philippines, we are optimistic that the response effort is turning a corner," Konyndyk said.