Filipino families to celebrate Christmas in evacuation centres after typhoon destroys homes

‘Please pray’ says Christian worker on the ground

The lives of almost two million people in the Philippines have been disrupted by Typhoon Rai which hit Mindanao in the southern part of the country last Thursday, causing damage across an unprecedented area, says World Vision Philippines communications manager Jeff Lamigo.

Lamigo told Eternity today that the latest UN reports put the number of affected individuals at a massive 1.8 million. Other sources estimate there have been 58 fatalities, and police are predicting that number could surpass 100.

“There are more missing since the disaster and most of these areas are on the coastline, so there could be more,” Lamigo said.

Lamigo said it was especially heartbreaking to see homes damaged now, just a few days away from Christmas, given that Filipinos are known for their getting into Christmas celebrations so early – often by putting up their Christmas trees in early September.

Electricity and communication lines in Visayas and Mindanao remain limited after Typhoon Rai (locally known as Odette) uprooted trees, houses, and electrical posts. Photos by Adonis Casinillo, World Vision.

A staggering 139,000 of those homes have been damaged, of which 40 per cent are totally destroyed, he said.

“These aren’t just numbers, these are lives of people – and mostly families – who will be celebrating Christmas without their homes, possibly in cramped evacuation centres,” Lamigo said.

Critical facilities such as power, water, and telecommunication lines have still not been restored almost a week after landfall, he added.

“My colleagues are seeing the situation first hand, and they are telling me there are so many fallen electric poles, power lines, trees – especially in Mindanao, which is a highly forested area. These are critical facilities – things that we usually ignore – but at this time, it’s everything for them.”

Lamigo said that of the 10 areas affected, World Vision is targeting aid at five of the hardest-hit provinces.

“We are trying to give them relief [in order] for them to more or less get by and survive,” he said. “But we are also realising that it is equally important to get access to information for them to make decisions.”

The situation is compounded by the continued threat of Covid 19.

“Just when our situation seems to be improving in terms of the Covid 19 virus, with crowded places in the evacuation camps, the health protocols might be just secondary to saving lives and being in a safer ground, so that also is a challenge at the moment.”

Electricity and communication lines in Visayas and Mindanao remain limited after Typhoon Rai (locally known as Odette) uprooted trees, houses, and electrical posts.

In addition to distributing information to assist with infection prevention and control, World Vision is focused on the special needs of children.

“At the moment we are seeing also the challenge of the children’s education, although it’s the coming holidays. The problem of disrupted education might just get worse due to power outages and internet connectivity. Filipino children are still in remote or distance [learning] mode, we are not yet in the face-to-face mode, so this will be a need for us in the next weeks and months when classes resume.”

He said World Vision is committed to complementing the relief efforts of the government.

“In fact, we have upgraded our plans. With the escalating humanitarian situation in the areas, we may have to intensify our efforts to really focus on immediate and survival potential,” he said, adding that there is a shortage of access to water.

“And to complement the foods that the government is providing, we are also providing non-food essentials such as blankets and mosquito nets to prevent dengue fever and water-borne diseases.

“Of course, because of the damaged houses, we will have to provide shelter support. We may not be able to rebuild at the moment but we will be providing some quick makeshift shelter and repair materials for those who can still rebuild their houses. I think in the next weeks we will be seeing more health issues, so we will help families who need medical attention especially children and women, pregnant women, in the evacuation camps.”

Photo: Adonis Casinillo, World Vision.

Lamigo said World Vision is establishing a fund that is hoped will raise more resources – both financial and other – on a large scale.

“This is a big crisis that will need some big interventions as well,” he explained.

“Australia in the past has been really generous in the Philippines especially during our super typhoon Haiyan experience [in 2013] so we are hopeful. And with Christmas coming, it’s the best opportunity to share the message of hope and I think we are all embracing that challenge.”

“We’re not just serving the people but we’re serving the Lord.”

Lamigo asked Australians to pray for the affected families and communities.

“There are at least 10 regions and the aggregate population would amount to close to 2 million,” he said. “And please also remember to pray for our own staff.”

“Some of the areas where our staff are working were also affected and that has also affected our operations, so some staff from other geographical locations waived their holidays to help and provide reinforcement – just to make all this happen and hopefully give a better Christmas gift to our people who need the help immediately.”

“So the best gift would be to pray for them,” he said. “We can only do so much and God’s sufficiency is sufficient, right? And we’re always leaning on that.”

“But we are also appealing for kind-hearted people and generous people to do their part and give and at the moment. This is an opportunity to bless others who are really in need and in a crisis. Whatever we do for the least of these brethren, we have done it for him – so we want to have that kind of perspective. We’re not just serving the people but we’re serving the Lord.”

Photo: Adonis Casinillo, World Vision.


Here is the latest rundown:Affected populations as of December 19, 2021:

Affected Families 202,650Affected Persons 780,800

Total Displaced Families 82,107 Total Displaced Persons 308,605

  • Without electricity, water, and communications signals in most communities, World Vision is concerned about children and their families’ situation.
  • Typhoon Rai had maximum sustained winds of 195km/h and gustiness of up to 240 km/h when it made its first landfall in Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, south of the Philippines, followed by eight more landfalls in Southern Leyte, Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental and Palawan.
  • Rai has massively cut essential lifelines, leaving 63 cities and municipalities without electricity and water supply, affecting 73 seaports and cancelling over 160 domestic and international flights as thousands have been stranded for the coming Christmas holidays.
  • World Vision Philippines supports more than 9,000 sponsored children in the area programs in Bohol, Cebu, and Negros Occidental in Visayas which sustained significant typhoon impact.
  • World Vision Philippines has dispatched teams to the major provinces in Bohol, Cebu, Negros, Southern Leyte and Surigao for assessments and has prepositioned survival aid such as hygiene kits, kitchen items, mosquito nets, and blankets and emergency shelters to assist displaced and homeless families whose houses were partially or totally damaged by the typhoon.