By Peter Stevenson
THE LARGE community of Filipinos and other expats living and working in Cyprus have mobilised to collect food, medicine and money or any other form of aid to send to their country that has been devastated by the deadly typhoon Haiyan.
But just as the aftermath of the catastrophe has had a resounding effect around the globe and about 30 nations or global aid agencies sending or pledging aid, charities in Cyprus too are getting ready to help, despite the financial crisis that has deprived Cypriots of the generous donations of the past.
International aid so far includes €18.5m from the United Nations, €3m from the European Union, €12m from Britain and €7.5m from the United Arab Emirates, home to a large population of expatriate Filipino workers.
Experts from Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and other organisations, as well as UN civilian disaster assessment teams have travelled to the Philippines. Belgium and Russia sent field hospitals, while the EU sent two Boeing 747s with supplies. Israel also loaded up two 747s with 200 medical personnel and supplies.
In Cyprus, the Holy Cross Catholic church has begun collecting various items which it hopes to send soon.
Shemaine Alonso Bushnell-Kyriakides, Honorary Consul of the Philippines, told the Cyprus Mail that aid which has been delivered has yet to be distributed due to the lack of transport.
“It has all bottle-necked and aid is currently at a standstill. They can’t get it through to the islands because of the devastation, so it is pointless to send food right now,” she said.
It will most certainly continue to be difficult to get aid to survivors as many roads remain blocked and electricity is out in many areas, making it difficult to operate at night.
“We are open to collecting various items but if people want to help, then diapers, baby formula and medicines for fevers and scratches are a priority,” she said.
There is still time for people to collect items as they will probably not be sent until the end of the month, Bushnell-Kyriakides said.
The consulate is working with the Catholic church and aid can be dropped off at the consulate or at the church at Paphos Gate in Nicosia.
“We will have to speak to various cargo companies to see if they can contribute space to send food. The Philippine community on the island has used a number of airlines from the Middle East to travel back and forth from Cyprus, so we expect their help during this extremely trying time,” she said.
The Honorary Consul said she hoped that a 20-foot container would be filled and eventually sent directly to the Philippine Red Cross.
Typhoon Haiyan is one of the bigest storms ever to make landfall and according to humanitarian aid worker Jessica Alexander its impact for Filipinos has been devastating. U.N. and Philippine government estimates indicate more than 9.5m people have been affected by the typhoon in nine regions across the country.
Additionally, nearly 620,000 people have been displaced from their homes and communities. All of this comes on top of displacement as a result of fighting in September and the Bohol earthquake of October 15. “The humanitarian response is stretched and needs support,” she said.
The Philippines has a highly developed civil society and effective government disaster response authority. Although typhoon Haiyan has overwhelmed local capacity for now, their efforts require support, Alexander said. The Philippines Red Cross has already worked to rescue individuals and deliver lifesaving supplies to people in hard-to-reach places. Other Philippine-based organisations such as Community and Family Services International and the Philippine Red Cross will know the local needs and how best to respond.
NO TEDDY BEARS
“Donate money — not teddy bears, not old shoes, not breast milk. Give money to organisations that have worked in the affected areas before the storm — they will be more likely to know and be able to navigate the local context and may be able to respond faster, as it won’t take them time to set up,” she said.
The Red Cross in Cyprus has yet to begin collections for the Philippines. Due to the current financial problems on the island and with Christmas just around the corner, it is still in the process of collecting donations for local causes and needy families.
The International Federation of the Red Cross has not notified the local office yet to begin collecting aid but the organisation is expected to release a statement next week when its director returns from Australia.
“From previous experiences we have had difficulties sending clothes, so an alternative might be found if demand is high, but it is generally accepted that it is better for money to be collected and whatever is needed to be bought over there,” an official from the Red Cross said.
Some members of the public have struggled to find ways to donate and 33-year-old Lucy Christou, who runs a thrift shop in Dherynia, found it very hard to get in touch with anyone regarding donations.
“I’m just another person trying to chip in a bit and help,” she said.
Christou has been contacted by a number of people in the area and also by British ex pats across the island as they seek ways to help out.
“Seeing the images of what has happened why would anyone not want to help?” she asked.
To make a donation or to give aid, contact Father Zach on 96367710 or the Consulate of the Philippines on 22680806. The Consulate is located at 36 Grivas Dighenis Ave., 4C, George & Thelma Paraskevaides Foundation Bldg in Nicosia.
MTN Cyprus offers free air time, aid for Philippines disaster
MTN CYPRUS is offering 60 free minutes for calls to the Philippines until the end of the month to existing customers as thousands of workers in Cyprus have families that may have been affected by the deadly typhoon Haiyan that has devastated the country.
MTN also said it was giving 5,000 euros to the Doctors Without Borders charity who provide medical aid to those in need.
“Our contribution is an attempt to help our people from the Philippines who currently work in Cyprus to contact their families and to thank them for the support and customer loyalty all these years,” said Philip van Dalsen, ΜΤΝ’s CEO for Cyprus.