(Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj)
A week after Super Typhoon Haiyan killed 4,460 people and displaced over 1.8 million in the Philippines, American Christian groups working with their local partners are calling for prayers and financial support amid tragic stories of loss and a severe scarcity of food, water and medicine.
While U.S. Christian relief agencies, along with other international organizations and foreign governments, are responding to the devastation, the need "is still so great," says Indiana-based Church World Service (CWS) in a statement.
"Tragic stories of loss are emerging every day – mothers searching for their children, families torn apart," CWS adds. "The people of the Philippines and other regions damaged by the storm desperately need our prayers and financial support."
CWS is working in the central Philippine city of Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province where Haiyan destroyed about 80 percent of structures in its path.
"Thanks to our partnerships on the ground today, help is on the way to many of the more than 200,000 of the most vulnerable survivors that we are targeting with our initial relief work," CWS says.
As roads become more accessible, emergency response crews are encountering "alarming new examples of the storm's destructive forces," adds the Maryland-based International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), which is responding with partners on the ground.
One of the strongest typhoons on record, Haiyan ripped through central and eastern Philippines last week, killing 4,460 people, according to the United Nations.
However, the Philippines' National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has put the death toll at 3,631, as of Sunday. At least 12,487 others were injured, 1,187 remain missing, over 1.8 million were displaced and more than 9 million have been affected, according to the Council.
"The need for food and medicine is critical, especially in hardest hit Tacloban city, where fuel is expected to run out in a few days and damage to the local airport's runway is limiting its use to small planes evacuating displaced storm victims," says IOCC.
The struggle to clear roads of debris and restore the lines of communication across the Philippines is slowing relief efforts for survivors, adds IOCC, which is working with Orthodox churches and relief partners inside the Philippines to provide more than 8,000 storm survivors in Tacloban and surrounding communities with assistance including food parcels, medicine, emergency medical care for the sick and wounded, and water purification tablets.
The group reports that more than 240,000 houses located in the path of the typhoon are completely destroyed and public sanitation is rapidly deteriorating. "Emergency shelter and water are urgently needed, and emergency hygiene kits continue to be in great demand."
Both CWS and IOCC are part of the ACT Alliance, a coalition of more than 140 churches and affiliated organizations working together in 140 countries to create positive and sustainable change in the lives of poor and marginalized people.
Philippines' President Benigno Aquino is being criticized for lack of preparation on the part of his government for the storm, as well as the slowness of aid delivery.
About 18,000 people are involved in the rescue and relief effort, according to BBC, which also reports that the flow of aid to the affected area has increased dramatically over the last two days thanks to international aircraft, ships and personnel, including a U.S. aircraft carrier group.
Christian relief agencies World Vision, Convoy of Hope, Water Missions International, Food for the Hungry and Heifer International are also on the ground.
The devastation will "linger for years," warns CWS.