Destruction wrought by Typhoon Odette (international name Rai) in the Philippines last month had been “badly underestimated” in initial assessments, tripling the number of people “seriously affected” to nine million, according to the United Nations.
A UN campaign to raise $107.2 million in aid for victims was launched a week after the storm lashed the southern and central regions of the archipelago on December 16, leaving 406 people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.
But UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez said the target would be revised after more than 66 field assessments showed the destruction was far worse than previously assessed.\
“One month since the first landfall of Super Typhoon Rai we realize that we have badly underestimated the scale of devastation,” Gonzalez told a virtual briefing.
More than 1.5 million houses were damaged or destroyed in the storm – almost a third more than in 2013’s Super Typhoon Yolanda, Gonzalez said, adding more resources were “badly needed.”
He called for solidarity with the Philippines to avoid the typhoon becoming a “forgotten crisis.”
Typhoon-hit areas already struggling with COVID-19, poverty and malnutrition had seen their economies “literally flattened,” Gonzalez said.
Earlier on, minority senators sought an assessment of the government’s response to cushion the impact of super typhoon Odette which lashed Visayas, Mindanao, Bicol and Palawan last month on its victims.
As hardship lingers in areas devastated by Odette one month after it struck, the senators said they wanted an assessment of the damage brought by the calamity, as well as the government’s rehabilitation and recovery efforts.
They noted that many families remain without a decent roof over their heads, groping in the dark, with scarce food and clean water.
Meanwhile, relief assistance released by the Department of Agriculture to typhoon-affected farmers and fisherfolk climbed to P3 billion-peso.
“For the last two weeks of January, the DA has been doubling its efforts in the distribution of these interventions to farmers and fishers who have been heavily affected by the typhoon,” said Agriculture secretary William Dar.
Of the total amount, P1 billion came from the Quick Response Fund (QRF) of the DA for the rehabilitation of affected areas particularly in regions 6, 7, 8, 13, and Mimaropa which have been directly hit by Typhoon Odette.
Humanitarian groups have been working with the national government to distribute food packs, drinking water, tents and materials to rebuild houses.
But the scale of the disaster, lack of power and communications in some areas, and depleted government coffers after the COVID-19 response have hampered efforts to distribute aid, according to officials.
At the same time, an Omicron-fueled surge in infections is also forcing relief workers into isolation and making travel more difficult while continuing rain in the region has been aggravating the misery, Gonzalez said.