The CAFOD Birmingham team meets quarterly with its key volunteers to catch up with each other and to receive some input. This April, the group of key volunteers met in Walsall and heard from Robert Cruickshank, CAFOD’s Regional Emergency Coordinator for Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. He spoke about his experience being involved in the immediate response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last year and thanked CAFOD supporters for their ‘incredible’ support which enabled CAFOD to provide vital aid in the months and year following Typhoon Haiyan.
The text of Robert’s input is below, with some footage from CAFODTV with more information.
“I have been with CAFOD for 9 years, taking a secondment as CAFOD’s Emergency Programme Manager for the Pakistan earthquake response in 2005, and also working in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, but I have never seen anything like what I saw in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013. The damage was mind-blowing. People were stunned, even after 10 days, some sitting in silence, still in shock. They were very grateful to be alive, and they also showed tremendous resilience from the beginning.
The Catholic Church in the Philippines was one of the first responders, mobilising resources as soon as the typhoon hit. The purpose of my trip was to collect facts and figures from our Caritas partners on the ground (the Caritas organisations that CAFOD is working with in this relief effort, including Caritas Philippines, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Switzerland – all were on the ground helping people), and liaise with DFID (our government’s Department for International Development). CAFOD was awarded a contract from DFID as part of a consortium with Oxfam and Plan International, so we were carrying out some of DFID’s work. We had to apply for this within 48 hours: the timing is very short to enable the fastest possible response to people suffering on the ground.
14.1 million people were affected, with 4.1 million displaced. The Disasters Emergency Committee (13 leading UK aid charities including CAFOD who work together in times of crisis) appeal raised £81 million of which CAFOD received a share,and CAFOD’s own appeal raised £5.3 million. We used this money to provide tarpaulins, food kits and hygiene kits initially, as people’s basic needs were the first priority. Most people stayed in their own neighbourhoods and put up tarpaulins wherever they could amongst their damaged or collapsed homes rather than moving to evacuation centres. The UN has a huge warehouse in Dubai, as does CRS, so many of these kits were sourced from there, but most of the items this time (soap, buckets, toothbrushes, chlorine tablets, sleeping mats) were purchased in Manila and taken to the worst-affected areas such as Tacloban.
CAFOD partners are also working hard on rebuilding shelters that are stronger and better able to withstand severe weather events. There is only so much that can be done for this, however, as it is not currently possible to build shelters to withstand greater than a category 3 storm (Haiyan was category 5). The government of the Philippines is working on a roughly 10 year plan of reconstruction. CAFOD aims to spend money collected for an emergency within 3 years, extending to 4 years on occasion. We have to balance spending it as quickly as possible (to help those who need it urgently, and as many of our supporters would want) with spending it most effectively, which can’t always be done quickly.
The response from CAFOD supporters to this disaster was incredible, and all of the vital work that CAFOD has been able to do through our partners since then is because of your generosity and compassion. Thank you very much indeed for your support.”