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Typhoon Haiyan

Volume 570: debated on Tuesday 12 November 2013

I would like to update the House on the UK’s response to typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines on 7 November and was one of the strongest storms on record. It has caused widespread devastation. Current estimates suggest that 10,000 have been killed in Tacloban alone and over 4.3 million have been seriously affected by the storm. These numbers are likely to increase as those responding to the aftermath of the typhoon gain greater access to affected areas.

The Government of the Philippines ordered mass evacuations in advance of the storm and pre-positioned some humanitarian assistance around the country. However, the needs in the country are overwhelming and additional assistance has been requested in order to reach those in desperate need. The situation is also compounded by the residual impact of previous crises in the Philippines, such as an earthquake in October and the ongoing conflict in Mindanao. The Government of the Philippines accepted an offer of assistance from the UN Humanitarian Coordinator.

Typhoon Haiyan has caused significant infrastructural damage. Major roads have been affected and some remain impassable, hampering rescue and relief operations. Thirteen airports across the country have suspended operations. The main seaports remain closed. Power outages and communication interruptions are being experienced across a number of provinces which has raised concerns over access to water as pumps are now ineffective. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has indicated that critical needs include shelter, food, health, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), camp management and logistics. The UN World Food Programme estimates that 2.5 million people may be in need of emergency food aid.

The Prime Minister spoke with President Aquino of the Philippines on 10 November to offer UK assistance with the humanitarian response. DFID currently has a team of seven deployed to Manila with three more arriving today. I approved a £6 million aid package on 9 November for immediate life-saving humanitarian support. This included a £5 million allocation to DFID’s rapid response facility which channels funding at speed to pre-registered non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and includes the bulk purchase of humanitarian kit with pre-approved suppliers. This will provide humanitarian aid for up to 500,000 people, including temporary shelter and clean water. The additional £1 million is for in-kind support including the provision of urgently-needed shelter and household items from the UK’s humanitarian stockpile. Five aircraft have been chartered from Dubai in order to transport this support. The funding will also fund the deployment of two public health specialists to work with the World Health Organisation to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

On 11 November, the Prime Minster announced that the UK would increase its assistance to a total of £10 million. This includes a further £l million for aircraft handling and airlift of humanitarian supplies, as well as the provision of 4x4s and mobile deployment kits, and an additional £3 million allocation for the rapid response facility. As a further part of the UK response, HMS Daring will also redeploy to the affected region and will provide drinking water and a team of trained medics, as well as serve as a UK operating base, bringing helicopter airlift capacity.

The Philippines Department of Health has made it clear that there is an urgent need for extra medical assistance and as a result yesterday I activated the UK International Emergency Trauma Register (UKIETR). We are mobilising a 12 strong medical team of UK surgeons, doctors and paramedics.