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Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick and parishioners at a church in Palo that was damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Credit: Catholic Relief Services

Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick and parishioners at a church in Palo that was damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Credit: Catholic Relief Services

By Ryan Worms

“There is devastation everywhere and the victims are in desperate need of everything,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines-NASSA, after visiting destroyed villages in the province of Leyte hard hit by Typhoon Haiyan.

“Caritas has to step up its distribution of food and materials for temporary shelters. The mobilisation of the Church and the solidarity of neighbouring dioceses and Caritas organisations around the world have made us confident that we’ll be able to face the challenges of this major emergency,” he said.

In Ormoc, most of the houses have been destroyed and people are still trying to salvage materials from their homes so they can build temporary shelters.

Demetria Omega is one of the typhoon’s victims in Ormoc. In her stall containing a few fruits and vegetables and surrounded by her grandchildren, she talks about her traumatic experience.

“When the typhoon struck I thought I was going to die,” she said. “All the houses were flying apart and it was extremely difficult for my son, grandchildren and I to protect ourselves.

“My house was behind me, and now nothing is left. First of all we need food and then the wherewithal to build a shelter.”

Demetria is doing whatever she can to deal with the problems. “We can’t just sit and do nothing. I managed to get a small $25 loan and set up this fruit and vegetable stall. So I hope I’ll be able to support my family and deal with this disaster. It’s important to keep busy and do what I can for my grandchildren,” she said.

While the devastation in Ormoc is substantial, it’s even greater in Tacloban, especially in the village of Palo.

“When I look out of the window of my damaged house, it looks like a valley of death,” says Msgr John Du, Archbishop of Palo, one of the villages hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan in the province of Leyte.

“In Palo, 95 percent of the buildings have disappeared. We’re burying bodies in the outskirts of parishes. Everything is lacking, although aid for the victims is being organised and we’re distributing food and materials so temporary shelters can be swiftly built,” he said.

A distribution of emergency shelter materials took place Monday in Ormoc and Palo.

With the arrival of one truck carrying 2,400 CRS (Catholic Relief Services is a CRS member) prepositioned tarps and another truck carrying 3,690 Cordaid (Caritas Netherlands) tarps; in the two field offices, there are now a total of 6,870 tarps for 6,572 families.

An additional 3,500 tarps have arrived in Cebu and will be sent to field offices as soon as transport is available, making a total of 10,370 tarps for emergency shelter already in country.

Ten days after the arrival of the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall, Caritas has a more precise idea of the damage caused and the victims’ needs. International aid efforts are still facing great logistical challenges in terms of their capacity to deliver food and other crucial items to the affected people who have lost everything.

Affected villages in the provinces of Leyte, Samar, Panay and Mindoro have had very little or no assistance so far.

In this context, the Catholic Church and Caritas network has proved to be vitally important in providing frontline aid delivery. Caritas Philippines has distributed 68,310 food packs distributed to 13 dioceses, with 345,000 people benefitting from relief aid.

Msgr Broderick Pabillo, the National Director of Caritas Philippines, thanked the Caritas organisations from around the world and asked them to carry on mobilising resources in order to be able to respond to the needs of the population.

“The prayers, solidarity and mobilisation of our brothers and sisters around the world will enable us to make progress,” he said.