- (Photo: REUTERS/Erik De Castro)
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is raising emergency donations for close to 4 million children believed to be affected by the catastrophic typhoon Haiyan, which has caused widespread damage and killed thousands.
"We are rushing to get critical supplies to children who are bearing the brunt of this crisis," said UNICEF Philippines Representative Tomoo Hozumi.
"Reaching the worst affected areas is very difficult, with limited access due to the damage caused by the typhoon to infrastructure and communications. But we are working around the clock to find ways to get these supplies to children as quickly as conditions allow."
The official donations page allows people from around the world to contribute to the cause and help with the emergency supplies, which include therapeutic food for children, health kits, water and hygiene kits. Distribution is being prioritized around the hard-hit Tacloban area, where over 10,000 people are believed to have lost their lives.
The historic typhoon crashed into the Philippines on Friday, leaving a number of regions in ruins and millions of people in desperate need of help. Major world leaders have promised to aid victimes of the catastrophe, including Roman Catholic Church leader Pope Francis who is sending $150,000 to the local Church in the regions most affected by the disaster, and U.S. President Barack Obama, who sent out his condolences and prayers following the tragedy.
"Michelle and I are deeply saddened by the loss of life and extensive damage done by Super Typhoon Yolanda," Obama wrote in a White House statement. "But I know the incredible resiliency of the Philippine people, and I am confident that the spirit of Bayanihan will see you through this tragedy. The United States is already providing significant humanitarian assistance, and we stand ready to further assist the Government's relief and recovery efforts."
Hozumi added that as authorities continue putting together a clearer picture of the impact of the crisis, it is becoming evident that more children have been affected than previously thought.
"UNICEF is doing all it can to reach these children, as quickly as possible with critical supplies, to protect their health, safety and wellbeing in the difficult days ahead," the UNICEF Philippines Representative said.
Water supplies and sanitation systems have been identified as an urgent priority in the aftermath of the typhoon, with children needing safe and protected spaces to be able to play and continue their education while recovery efforts continue on homes and livelihoods.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas said of the destruction at Tacloban: "From a helicopter, you can see the extent of devastation. From the shore and moving a kilometer inland, there are no structures standing. It was like a tsunami. I don't know how to describe what I saw. It's horrific."
"Get international help to come here now – not tomorrow, now," added Magina Fernandez, a survivor speaking with CNN. "This is really, really like bad, bad, worse than hell, worse than hell."
The UNICEF donation page for children affected by the typhoon offers different ways for people to donate, including by phone at 1.800.FOR.KIDS (1.800.367.5437).