By MARISSA HIGDON
(TRNS) — At a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, witnesses praised the U.S. government’s immediate response to Typhoon Haiyan and focused on future reconstruction efforts.
“I think that the United States, the UN, and the local organizations really did an outstanding job,” said the Chief Operating Officer of Catholic Relief Services Sean Callahan of the response to the typhoon.
Haiyan killed over 5,600 people, injured approximately 26,000, and affected nearly 11 million others when it hit the Philippines on November 8.
Committee Chairman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) shared the devastation he witnessed when he visited the Philippines last week.
“One man told us how his father drowned only a few feet from where we stood and how he had stoically carried many waterlogged dead bodies to a mass grave,” Smith said.
Assistant administrator for Democracy Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance of the US Agency for International Development Nancy Lindborg said the U.S. began working with the Filipino government before the storm even hit and with other organizations to provide the immediate emergency response.
According to Lindborg, the U.S. provided about 2,450 tons of emergency supplies, evacuated 21,000 people, and gave $60,000 in food assistance.
Catholic Relief Services and World Vision also had witnesses at the hearing who testified about the many services they have provided to the people of the Philippines including providing food, water, shelter, healthcare, and focusing on protecting vulnerable individuals.
“We have learned through our many decades of involvement with relief efforts like this that one of our first priorities must be providing a safe place for children,” said the Senior Director of Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs for World Vision U.S. Chris Palusky. “It is urgent to engage and work with vulnerable children and families now to ensure that their desperation does not lead to the exploitation of children in exchange for money, food, or medicine.”
All witnesses stated a commitment to rebuilding in a more resilient way. Witnesses also called on congress to continue to fund recovery efforts and keep the national spotlight on the destruction in the Philippines.
“We see all to often that after the cameras go away that these kinds of responses go away,” said Lindborg. “As the spotlight on the immediate crisis dims, the U.S. government will enhance our support for these vital preparedness, relief, and early recovery efforts.”
“It’s going to be a marathon,” said Palusky as he encouraged Congress to maintain interest in recovery efforts.