Australia donates P457M to calamity victims in Asia-Pacific

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 Dec) – Australia has allocated some Aus$10.5 million (PhP457 million) for humanitarian assistance to victims of recent calamities that affected the Asia-Pacific region, including the devastating floods in several parts of Mindanao over the weekend that already left over 600 people dead.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said Monday they are set to release the financial grant to non-government organizations (NGOs) Care, Caritas, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision as part of its new Humanitarian Partnership Agreement.

He said the assistance was meant to “ensure a faster, more coordinated response to rapid onset emergencies” in the region.

Rudd noted that the participating NGOs have been pre-qualified and have a proven track record in providing humanitarian assistance internationally.

“We have seen flash flooding in the Philippines that has resulted in over 600 deaths. The Australian government’s work with the Red Cross and the Philippines government meant emergency supplies were pre-positioned for immediate distribution, and assessment teams are now working to see what more needs to be done,” Rudd said in a statement released Monday by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid). Typhoon Sendong (international code name: “Washi) wreaked havoc in five Mindanao regions and portions of Visayas and Mimaropa region, triggering flashfloods and landslides that already left 632 people dead and 87 others still missing.

As of noon Monday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said 8,128 families or a total of 44,976 persons have remained in evacuation centers in the cities of Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and neighboring areas.

Meantime, aside from providing direct relief and humanitarian assistance, Rudd said the program will also focus on building the capacity of NGOs and their partners on the ground to respond to disasters.

They will help build up disaster risk management systems and lessen the impact of natural disasters in partner countries and regions, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific, he said.

Rudd pointed out that in the last 30 years, the incidence of disasters globally has more than doubled, and almost half happen in the Asia-Pacific region.

“It’s particularly a problem in poor countries that don’t have the resources to respond when disaster strikes,” he said.

In addition to the humanitarian support, Rudd said Australia has provided close to Aus$11 million to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) for emergency preparedness within the Asia Pacific region and Africa.

“Australia’s contribution is enhancing WFP’s ability to pre-position humanitarian supplies, and improve disaster management capacity within the WFP and with partner governments in developing countries,” he said.

He added that program wants to ensure that people in crisis would receive the needed life-saving food and shelter. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)