Food supplies are scarce, there's massive hoarding and fuel is quickly becoming limited in the Philippines. That's merely a glimpse of the situation almost a week after a typhoon slammed the island nation, a scenario one of the leaders of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines described as"quite chaotic."
"There was no way in which people could escape the typhoon's path," said Bishop Marigza of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, a partner organization of the UCC. "Because of the extent of the damage, there are still many places that haven't been reached."
The UCCP bishop spoke this week to executives of the UCC's Disaster Ministries, which issued a $250,000 appeal for emergency relief soon after the devastating superstorm.
In the week since the appeal, people across the life of United Church of Christ have responded: As of Friday evening, Nov. 15, $113,595 has been donated online, with an additional $6,243 sent to denomination offices. The United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) expressed gratitude for the church's generosity in the early stages of the recovery process.
"It will take us quite a long time to recover," Marigza said.
The effort in the United States to assist the Philippines may raise about $1 billion in individual donations to relief agencies, but some philanthropic experts believe it may not be enough since the storm is one of the most destructive on record.
The UCCP has set up two relief operation centers in Cebu City and Maasin, but Tacloban – which was hit hardest by typhoon winds – remains the immediate center of attention. Meanwhile, communication and infrastructure are still problematic, making the coordination of any recovery work difficult.
Typhoon Haiyan (locally named Yolanda) made landfall in the Philippines on Friday, Nov. 8, and has displaced an estimated 4.5 million people. The official death toll has climbed to 3,700 people — though it's expected to rise to as much as 10,000 as bodies are uncovered in the debris. The situation has left survivors in search of food, water and shelter, with some people looting supplies from grocery stores. Military and police forces from other countries, including U.S. Marines, have been deployed to try and maintain order in heavily-damaged places such as the city of Tacloban.
"You see on the television the extent of the damage, and Tacloban is one place that is mostly shown," Marigza said. "But there is damage in other areas the media has not gone, and it's extensive. It's wiped out entire communities and towns."
Immediate needs in the region are sources of power, such as generators or solar power, bottled water, basic shelter and tools to clean up the debris.
The UCC has sent $50,000 in grants, funded by One Great Hour of Sharing, to the ACT Alliance, the UCCP and Church World Service to assist relief efforts. The money will fund early response and initial recovery work of the UCCP, ACT Alliance and CWS to provide provisioning supplies, emergency shelter items, drinking water and money – items desperately needed as people fight to stay alive.
"We thank you for responding to our cry for help," Marigza said. "This shows that in Christ, there is no East or West, no North or South."
For more information from Disaster Ministries, worship resources and other ways to help, bookmark this page.