Remarks by USAID Asia Bureau Deputy Assistant Administrator Greg Beck for “The Response to Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan” conference

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

[As Prepared]

Good morning. Thank you to the Center for Strategic & International Studies for convening this conference, and, more importantly, for keeping this on our country’s radar. As I told the Typhoon Task Team that we stood up in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, right now is precisely the time that we need to continue raising awareness, to prevent a second tragedy: forgetting those still struggling to rebuild their lives as we move on with ours.

USAID has been partnering with the Philippines for more than 50 years and is committed to supporting the country’s efforts to emerge from Typhoon Haiyan stronger than ever and remain a vital economic and political partner for the United States

Since Typhoon Haiyan made landfall, we’ve been working rigorously on the ground in partnership with the Government of the Philippines to provide life-saving support and respond to the needs of affected communities. Thanks to the strategizing and coordinated teamwork across all elements of the United States – USAID, the State Department and the Department of Defense, the private sector, NGOs, the faith-based community and diaspora – our country was among the first international responders on the ground to provide aid after the storm hit.

Right away, we were on the scene providing life-saving care, distributing emergency food aid and critical relief supplies, such as plastic sheeting for shelter and clean water, hygiene kits and improved sanitation facilities — all critical to halting further devastation that can result from famine, dehydration or the spread of water-borne or communicable disease.

USAID pre-positioned disaster response experts in Manila before the storm made landfall, and immediately dispatched relief supplies and food aid from Dubai and Miami after the storm passed. The U.S. military also provided 24-hour logistical support for relief operations in the early days after the disaster.

The U.S. military delivered immediate logistical, search and rescue, and transportation support and delivered additional relief commodities. In total the military transported more than 2,495 tons of relief supplies and evacuated over 21,000 people from some of the hardest-hit areas.

Just eight days after the storm, we were able to get the Tacloban municipal water system up and running, providing clean water to 200,000 people in one of the hardest-hit areas. This was done in partnership with UNICEF and Armed Forces of the Philippines, and with the support of the U.S. military.

An important element of the response was the incredible ability of USAID’s non-governmental organization partners on the ground to mobilize and organize quickly. Despite the fact that the staff of these NGOs themselves were also victims of the typhoon, these NGOS were ready move relief supplies and reach many affected people quickly.

To date, the United States has contributed more than $86 million in humanitarian aid for activities including food aid, shelter materials, clean water, hygiene education and supplies for families affected by the typhoon, as well as protection for vulnerable populations.

We know that the most vulnerable — women, children, the elderly, and those with special needs — always fare worst during disasters. We are committed to ensuring our relief activities emphasize the need for protection from the earliest days of a response. We are incorporating protection measures across immediate relief activities, and we are also supporting programs that help with the identification, tracing and reunification of unaccompanied children, as well as community-level measures to prevent and combat child trafficking.

The United States Government emergency humanitarian aid is helping at least 3 million people with food assistance, as well as critically needed water containers, heavy-duty plastic sheeting for temporary shelters, and hygiene kits to prevent the spread of disease.

The incredible resilience of the Filipino people to recover and rebuild has been inspiring. We are seeing a government and a community working hard to recover on their own with deep appreciation and gratitude for the international response supporting their efforts.

Now, we are at a critical place in our response efforts where we have pivoted from providing immediate relief to building long-term recovery. We are forging partnerships with the people and Government of the Philippines, the private sector, NGOs, faith-based communities and the diaspora to together help rebuild lives and livelihoods throughout the Philippines.

Just a few weeks ago during his visit to the Philippines, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a new partnership coordinated through USAID with Proctor & Gamble and Coca Cola to get sari-sari stores — small, neighborhood convenience stores — back up and running. Sari-sari stores support livelihoods and also provide access to critical daily items, such as batteries, medical supplies and water. Through this partnership, we aim to provide an immediate boost to the local economy — as well as a much needed sense of normalcy.

As we move forward with long-term recovery, one major focus of our work is assisting the Philippines in strengthening the ability of communities to prepare for and mitigate the negative impact of climate change, so that when disaster strikes, families are less likely to be pushed deeper into poverty.

For more than two decades, the U.S. has worked with the Government of Philippines to strengthen its disaster management system and response capabilities. We will continue working with the Philippines to help increase the capacity of vulnerable communities to withstand and recover from shocks and crises.

Thank you.

Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), Washington, DC