NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation)—United States Agency for International Development (USAID) applied lessons learned from the tsumani in Indonesia and earthquakes in Haiti and Pakistan in its response to the super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, according to a top agency executive official just back from a weeklong visit to the devastated region.
“One of the lessons we’ve applied is the local purchase of rice,” Nancy Lindborg, USAID's assistant administrator of the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
USAID fielded an experienced 19-person disaster assistance response team on the ground in the Philippines, supplemented by 50 to 60 additional personnel from USAID’s Philippines mission and its Washington headquarters, she said.
USAID gave immediate cash--$7,750,000 according to UNICEF’s fact sheet-- to the World Food Programme so that it could purchase rice from local and regional sources, getting it to the people who needed it far faster than by bringing in food from outside, she said.
The result was food parcels distributed to 2.7 million families. The rice was supplemented by nutritious biscuits and other items flown in from USAID’s regional distribution hub in Dubai, airlifted by U.S. military transport planes. The agency also employed U.S. military aircraft, such as Blackhawk helicopters and Osprey aircraft, to airlift supplies to remote areas in the days before roads were cleared.
In addition, to date USAID has provided heavy duty plastic sheeting to 20,000 families for temporary shelter, hygiene kits to prevent disease to another 20,000 and water containers to 30,000 households, Lindborg said.
USAID allocated $750,000 to UNICEF to restore the municipal water system in the devastated city of Tacloban. The repaired system currently is supplying clean water to 200,000 people in that area, she said.
“The U.S. government put $49 million into the response and that is money that already has been turned into urgent, lifesaving assistance and put into the hands of the people that need it most,” Lindborg said.
Any lessons learned from the response to the typhoon, Lindborg said, will come when the crisis is over and the after-action reports are analysed.
A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) video documenting the struggle to reach and treat patients in remote communities still cut off after typhoon Haiyan