Japan has pledged $30 million in emergency aid as foreign help continued to pour into storm-battered Philippines.
The Japanese government will provide emergency supplies, such as plastic sheets and mats, for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Tokyo will also deploy an emergency relief team to the hard-hit provinces to assist in humanitarian efforts.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said he ordered the SDF to send 50 personnel, including 20 medical officers and troops, following a request from Manila.
“We hope to make every effort to get the aid to the people who need it as soon as possible,” Onodera told a news conference, adding that the number of SDF personnel on the ground will be increased if necessary. The aid amount was initially placed at $10 million and has since been tripled, now standing at $30 million.
An advance unit of Japan’s emergency medical team, composed of three doctors, seven nurses, two pharmacists, five medical coordinators and officials, arrived in Tacloban on Tuesday.
The Japanese team is among several hundred health workers from different countries now in the Philippines.
Kenzo Iwakami of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said his team was simply returning a favor, referring to the Philippine contribution to relief efforts following the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami.
“We will never forget what the Philippines did for us in 2011,” Iwakami said.
The team brought medical supplies and equipment enough to establish a medical facility in the disaster area.
“We brought some medications and equipment to make a field hospital,” said Dr. Joji Tomioka, subleader and medical coordinator for JICA’s medical team for disaster relief.
“This time, we have to help you. Because two years ago, you have helped us,” Tomioka told Philippine reporters.
Five days after Haiyan tore through the Philippine archipelago, overwhelming foreign aid has struggled to reach thousands of people in areas cut off from the rest of the nation.
Tacloban, which came directly under Haiyan’s destructive path, is now a land of despair and chaos. People searched through heaps of rubble for food and water, while some peered under cardboard boxes on roadsides for familiar faces.
Hundreds of families are desperate to leave the province now barren and permeated with the smell of the dead and no one to bury them.
With soldiers and security forces now on the ground, the full scope of the damage is slowly piecing together. The casualties has been reduced to 2,500 but more are feared missing or dead.
Foreign aircraft carrying food and water are expected to land in the region while two amphibious ships from the US military will be deployed. The ships can turn seawater into drinking water, reports said.
If you would like to help, the following links have information for several foreign aid agencies:
By Maesie Bertumen