UN ready to provide humanitarian assistance to Vinta-hit Mindanao

(UPDATED) Nearly 140,000 Vinta victims are expected to welcome the new year homeless

Voltaire Tupaz

1:0:4pm December 29, 2017

4:36:23pm December 29, 2017

RAPID ASSESSMENT. Humanitarian workers from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, conduct rapid assessments in Lanao del Sur towns that were hit by Severe Tropical Storm Vinta (Tembin). Photos by J. Pangalian/UNHCR

RAPID ASSESSMENT. Humanitarian workers from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, conduct rapid assessments in Lanao del Sur towns that were hit by Severe Tropical Storm Vinta (Tembin). Photos by J. Pangalian/UNHCR

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The humanitarian agencies of the United Nations are prepared to help the government address urgent needs in areas that were hit by Severe Tropical Storm Vinta (Tembin).

So far, about 715,000 people are reported to have been affected by the storm. The storm has claimed at least 240 lives with scores of others still missing.

“A lot of people are still in temporary evacuation centers, so they need some basic assistance with food,” UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Philippines Head of Office Mark Bidder told United Nations News in an interview.

At least 1,630 houses have been destroyed while about 1,000 were damaged, leaving nearly 140,000 homeless, according to OCHA. Nearly 81% of the displaced people will be staying in more than 200 evacuation centers as the New Year approaches.

OCHA has created an interactive version  of the Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC) to guide humanitarian actors on the ground.

LIVING IN DISPLACEMENT. Thousands who are affected by Severe Tropical Storm Vinta flee their homes, including those who are already living in displacement across Mindanao.Photos by J. Pangalian/UNHCR

LIVING IN DISPLACEMENT. Thousands who are affected by Severe Tropical Storm Vinta flee their homes, including those who are already living in displacement across Mindanao.Photos by J. Pangalian/UNHCR

Double whammy for Marawi evacuees

Other members of the UN’s Mindanao Humanitarian Team (MHT), like the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), are currently conducting response operations and assessments to determine the extent of the damage to flooded homes, infrastructure, and agriculture.

“Many families who fled Marawi City 7 months ago experienced a double whammy: displacement caused by the conflict, and the impact of Tropical Storm Vinta,” the UNHCR said.

The UN Refugee Agency has sent a rapid assessment mission to Madamba, Madalum, Bacolod-Kalawi, Wato-Balindong towns in Lanao del Sur.

Initial reports of the mission showed that some evacuation centers hosting Marawi families in Iligan City and the Lanao provinces suffered damage. Authorities moved the evacuees to school buildings where they will be hosted temporarily. The families have requested additional malongs, mats, and hot meals, according to the UNHCR.

“This extreme wet weather is certainly not helping the conditions that displaced people currently face many of them are still not able to immediately return home,” OCHA’s Bidder said.

BAYANIHAN SPIRIT. Affected residents and DSWD personnel help each other in delivering relief goods to an affected village in Munai town in Lanao del Norte, which was heavily hit by Severe Topical Storm Vinta. Photo courtesy of Ninoy Castro/DSWD

BAYANIHAN SPIRIT. Affected residents and DSWD personnel help each other in delivering relief goods to an affected village in Munai town in Lanao del Norte, which was heavily hit by Severe Topical Storm Vinta. Photo courtesy of Ninoy Castro/DSWD

Protecting children a priority

Meanwhile, relief supplies prepositioned by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) are ready for dispatch to the storm-hit areas in Mindanao. Its field teams are also working around the clock to assess the extent of damage, according to the UN agency.

“We stand ready to support the government and partners to address risks on children's life and health and alleviate suffering of affected communities as best as we can,” Lotta Sylwander, head of UNICEF operations in Philippines, said in a statement.

Children are among the most vulnerable and are at a heightened risk of contaminated water, lack of food, and epidemics, and other hazards which often follow in the wake of a natural disaster.

UN Secretary General António Guterres earlier said that the organization "stands ready to support the local and national authorities, in addition to the support already being provided by humanitarian partners.” (WATCH: What Duterte promised mayors in Vinta-hit Lanao del Norte)

Vinta ravaged southern Philippines, particularly the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Lanao del Norte, and Lanao del Sur. 

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines each year. – Rappler.com