15 November 2013.
All systems, humanly possible, are in place to ensure an effective, focused intervention by Gift of the Givers teams in the Philippines. We held the teams back and delayed departure simply because of inaccessibility to regions whose infrastructure has been completely destroyed by the intensity of Super Typhoon Haiyan.
The first two team members, , depart from Ireland and Denmark today to prepare for the arrival of the 20-member team departing South Africa tomorrow night. This team comprises divers, advance life support paramedics specialised in water rescue (more rains are expected) and primary health care, a trauma doctor and a paediatrician. All relevant equipment related to water rescue and releasing of trapped bodies will accompany the team as distraught victims need to recover the bodies of their loved ones to begin the process of closure in what is clearly an arena of unimaginable psychological, emotional and physical trauma. Finding survivors and recovering bodies, together with primary health care and treatment of wounds will be the focus of the first team. Medical supplies, medicines, delivery packs for those giving birth (it is expected that 12000 women will deliver within this week alone), foil blankets to wrap newborns, wound dressings, high energy and protein ready to eat supplements (no cooking or heating required) comprise the emergency cargo.
The team will be received by Rescue 926, a local organisation linked to the Philippines Coast Guard, and who have extensive experience in the recent earthquake and previous natural disasters. All rescue activities will be carried out jointly. The Rescue 926 team is closely affiliated with the Honorary Consul of the Philippines in Cape Town, Mr Steven Chaimowitz, who together with the Philippines Embassy and South Africa's International Relations Department have extended all support to us. Rear Admiral Isorena, head of the coast guard is arranging a vessel to take our teams and supplies to Tacloban given the volume of our supplies. This is a two day journey by ship. He is trying to extend this special favour to us given that all vessels and planes are overstretched.
The South African team will be purchasing essential supplies in Manila, as recommended by the National Disaster Agency and Rescue 926, and will personally distribute it to the affected victims. There is intense hunger and thirst in the affected region. The purchase of food and water in huge quantities is an absolute necessity.
A medical team with skills relevant to the needs of the affected population will follow a few days after the first team and will also carry essential medical supplies.
The scale of the destruction is catastrophic; the pain, suffering, helplessness and hopelessness just heart-breaking. As a nation we need to stand up and be counted and respond in a manner befitting our humanity. Gift of the Givers is organising container loads of supplies to be sent by ship from South Africa to the Philippines to assist a nation in shock as it recuperates and heals. Diverse items including a range of food products, new clothing, blankets, linen, towels, pot sets, sanitary pads, disposable nappies and toys will be sent. The success of this campaign depends on the support of the South African nation.
A special "Thank You" to Suzanne Ackerman who has put Pick 'N Pay stores in South Africa behind this campaign. A personal contribution has been made and the public has the option of donating relevant items into marked trolleys in all stores. These items will be delivered to Gift of the Givers warehouses for onward shipping to the Philippines. Items can also be donated to any of the Gift of the Givers offices or warehouses.
Cash contributions are most welcome. Gift of the Givers, Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, Account No. 052278611, Branch code 057525, reference "typhoon". Details 0800786911.