GENEVA - The United Nations is appealing for $45.5 million to provide life-saving assistance for 260,000 of the most vulnerable people affected by Super Typhoon Goni in the Philippines.
The storm, the world’s most powerful tropical cyclone this year, swept across large swathes of southern Luzon with terrifying force 10 days ago. Torrential rains and violent winds blew away roof tops, damaging and destroying homes and infrastructure. The lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people have been shattered.
The United Nations says 1.9 million people in eight of the Philippines’ 17 regions have been affected by the typhoon, leaving an estimated 845,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance. The U.N. plans to aid 260,000 of the most vulnerable; among them women, children, the disabled and elderly — people who essentially have lost everything and have no means of support.
Given the extent of devastation, the number of casualties has been relatively low. The government reports at least 25 people have been killed, 399 injured and seven are missing. U.N. resident humanitarian coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez says the government’s preemptive action saved many lives.
“The government of the Philippines has made significant efforts and they deserve recognition by the huge preemptive evacuation of people," Gonzalez said. "We are talking about 480,000 people that were evacuated before the arrival of the typhoon. They were moved to some evacuation centers.”
Unfortunately, Gonzales said people in the centers now are faced with other risks posed by COVID-19. Local authorities, he notes, are particularly concerned this disaster is taking place at the same time the pandemic is spreading throughout the country.
“People in evacuation centers, of course, cannot follow social distancing measures," Gonzalez said. "The lack of appropriate water access and sanitation represent also a health risk for an area that is also well known by previous cholera outbreaks.”
The World Health Organization reports 400,000 cases of coronavirus, including 7,661 deaths in the Philippines. Gonzales notes Typhoon Goni destroyed the only COVID-19 laboratory in the heavily affected Bicol Region, putting an end to all testing.
The appeal will fund essential relief, including food, shelter, hygiene, water and sanitation, psychosocial support and protection. The money also will be used to restore livelihoods and critical services to promote the rapid recovery of the most affected communities.