Nearly a year after typhoon Haiyan
An interview with the Order of Malta Ambassador to the Philippines
Typhoon Haiyan: 14.1 million people affected, about 10,000 dead, 4.1 million displaced and coastal towns in several provinces completely destroyed. The Philippine Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta, together with Malteser International, the relief agency of the Order, has been involved in the reconstruction process of the towns of San Antonio and Amandaheyan in Basey, Samar and in Santa Fe in Bantayan Island, Cebu. The Order of Malta in the Philippines implements the project of the government’s Relief and Rehabilitation Programme.
Odelia Arroyo, Ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta to the Philippines since 2013 and former Hospitaller of the Philippine Association, recalls in this interview the havoc caused by the typhoon that hit the Philippines so violently in early November 2013 and tells us about the fast response required to address the needs of the stricken population.
Haiyan was one of the worst typhoons ever to hit the country, causing massive destruction. The Philippines faced a humanitarian crisis for many days afterwards and still bear the consequences of such a huge catastrophe. Our commitment will continue as long as the needs are there.
To what extent has the humanitarian mission deployed been supported and aided by the Embassy of the Sovereign Order of Malta?
Malteser International’s humanitarian aid was brought to the disaster areas by the staff of the Philippine Association of the Order of Malta, headed by its hospitaller, Ma. del Carmen Carag-Harada, with the valuable collaboration of the local government.
All the donations from the various donors and foundations were consigned to the Order’s Embassy. These shipments are considered duty-free and our containers are not opened or searched. The lack of red tape also obviates the need for customs brokers or lengthy exchanges of paperwork to which the shipments of other aid organisations may be subjected. This is critical to our ability to respond to climate change-related disasters. The Embassy forwards all these donations to the Philippine Association of the Order of Malta who arrange their distribution.
Our last shipment was a 2-ton air shipment of medicines for Typhoon Haiyan survivors, and we recently received 38,000 pairs of black canvas Tom’s shoes which we distributed to school children in the provinces affected by Haiyan.
Could you give us a brief overview of the main projects underway in the Philippines which are managed by the Order of Malta?
The main projects of rehabilitation include 350 core shelters with toilets and hand washing facilities in San Antonio and Amandaheyan, Samar. These will be completed in January 2015. Another 350 core shelters with toilets and hand washing facilities in Santa Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu will be completed in February 2015. Rehabilitation of two elementary schools with 300 students is underway in Amandaheyan, Samar and also in Okoy, Bantayan, for 753 students. Hygiene kits will be distributed.
Other activities in progress include: the rehabilitation of a water supply source in Okoy, Bantayan – currently open and vulnerable to contamination; the distribution of medical equipment and sanitary items in a town health centre in Amandaheyan, Samar; and to help increase family income. We are focusing on training local women in vegetable farming. In addition, the Swiss Association of the Order of Malta has donated 13 motorised boats for fishermen in the town of Marabut, Basey, who lost their boats in the typhoon.
How many volunteers do you have in the Association and in the auxiliary corps and what are their main responsibilities?
There are around 500 volunteers who can be called on in the metropolitan area of Manila and, in coordination with partner beneficiaries and dioceses, we can rely on at least 100 volunteers anywhere in the Philippines. So for our many activities we are fortunate to have so many of our members, donors and volunteers willing to help us in this long programme of rehabilitation after catastrophe.
To learn more watch Malteser International’s video ‘The Philippines one year after Typhoon Haiyan’