‘Let us not forget’

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Monday, December 23, 2013

UNITED Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on donor nations yesterday to ramp up aid to the Philippines as it grapples with a funding shortfall on the long road to recovery.

“We must not allow this to be another forgotten crisis,” Ban told reporters a day after touring the storm-ravaged city of Tacloban.

He said the UN had achieved only 30 percent of the $791 million in aid it had appealed for to boost relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas devastated by super typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda) last Nov. 8.

“I am appealing to the donor community to speed up, scale up their support,” Ban said, adding that he had met with the ambassadors of key donor countries in Manila on Sunday.

Yolanda damaged at least P36 billion worth of infrastructure and agricultural products and facilities when it struck the country’s center last Nov. 8. The national disaster council reported, as of yesterday, that 6,109 died, with 1,779 still missing. More than 27,600 suffered injuries.

Working hard

The super typhoon has also driven more than four million persons out of their homes, and left more than a million houses either damaged or destroyed.

Government and private groups have distributed P1.21 billion worth of relief supplies in nine regions.

Ban said he was deeply moved and inspired by his visit to Tacloban on Saturday, where despite the many challenges “people are working hard to recover.”

Ban acknowledged some bottlenecks in relief efforts in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon owing to logistical challenges in reaching remote islands struck by the typhoon.

However, he said the UN stood firm in its commitment to help the Philippines as it lays out an ambitious plan to rebuild storm-battered areas.

Yolanda ravaged an area the size of Portugal, Agence France Presse pointed out.

This year, disasters caused global economic losses of about $130 billion, Swiss Re said last week, but there was little insurance coverage for the deadliest catastrophe, Yolanda/Haiyan.

Minimal insurance

In a preliminary estimate of the impact of natural and man-made disasters, the Zurich-based reinsurance group noted that the economic impact was sharply down from $196 billion in 2012, a year marked by super storm Sandy in the United States.

But the total loss of life climbed to about 25,000 people from 14,000 in 2012, it said.

Swiss Re did not release an estimate for the Philippines, but insurance- and disaster-risk modellers AIR Worldwide recently put the economic losses at $6.5-14.5 billion, and insurance coverage at $300-700 million.

The latter figure accounted only for physical damage to insured buildings and their contents, and did not include such areas as losses of crops or business interruption, AIR Worldwide noted.

“In many parts of the world, insurance penetration remains low,” Swiss Re’s chief economic Kurt Karl said in a statement.

“Together with preventive measures, insurance can lessen the destructive impact and financial burden that large catastrophic events can have on people’s lives. It can also help accelerate reconstruction efforts, as we have seen in areas where insurance penetration is higher,” he added. (AFP)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 23, 2013.

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