TO give shelter, to give a home, is at the heart of the Christmas message. But, says GOAL worker James Kelly, millions of people in the Philippines still find themselves without homes or shelter, weeks after Typhoon Haiyan struck and with monsoon rains on the way.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader from the typhoon-damaged island of Leyte, James, from Granagh appealed to Limerick readers to help the aid effort and give homes for Christmas. “The only way we can do that is with your support,” he said, begging people not to forget the 3.4m people who have been displaced, even as they are getting ready for the excitement of their own Christmas.
“The people here have absolutely nothing,” he said. Yet, he added, they are unbelievably kind and totally grateful for the support they are getting from around the world.
“The people here are the nicest people I have ever met. You walk down the road and they have no idea of who you are and where you come from but they know you are there to help and they say, thank you, thank you for coming, even though we may not be helping them directly. They are so happy we responded.”
There are, he continued, no words to describe the scenes he has encountered since he arrived in the Philippines two weeks ago. “It is complete devastation. It is apocalyptic. It is end of the world type stuff. Everything is destroyed.”
In the particular area of Jaro where he is based, GOAL is the only aid organisation trying to give help to some 10,000 families. “They are mainly farmers and their crops are destroyed for this year and maybe for years to come.”
The damaged infrastructure has made the aid effort even more difficult. Roads, airports, ports, bridges, power lines and water services have all been damaged or wiped out.
But, thankfully, James explained, some things are getting better. In the urban areas, in particular, rubble is being cleared and the decomposing bodies of the dead have been removed for burial. “A lot of things are more accessible,” he explained and the aid cargos are beginning to come through more quickly. “ In the country, people are starting to rebuild and that is why it is so important we get out there with plastic sheeting and so on.”
“We are going to be distributing food to over 5,000 families over the next two weeks.,” he said. They will also be distributing hygiene packs. “The primary needs are for shelter and food and will be for a good few weeks to come,” James said, renewing the plea for help.