Philippine envoy thanks Israeli government, NGOs as aid and assistance continues
by Benji Rosen
Nov. 13, 2013
IDF, Foreign Ministry and Israeli, Jewish humanitarian organizations are all sending aid workers to the Philippines.
Philippine Ambassador to Israel Generoso D.G. Calonge expressed appreciation on Tuesday for the assistance Israel has offered to his storm-ravaged country, saying it made him “so happy.”
“I can’t describe the feeling right now… that my host country cares about our stricken people,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “I hope the people of Israel will maintain their attitude of people who are stricken with this crisis and who are on the losing end of natural disasters.”
The IDF, Foreign Ministry and Israeli and Jewish humanitarian organizations are sending aid workers to the Philippines to provide rescue and relief efforts in the wake of super-typhoon Haiyan. The confirmed death toll from the storm was at least 1,774 as of Tuesday, with estimates reaching 10,000.
In addition, according to the UN, approximately 800,000 people have been displaced by one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall.
In a letter to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu extended his “heartfelt condolences” to the victims of the “horrific typhoon” and guaranteed Israel’s “assistance to alleviate the suffering.”
On Tuesday, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said Israel was supporting the Philippines “not only in words but also in actions.”
In a statement, Prosor said the IDF was sending two Boeing 747’s with 234 Israeli doctors, nurses and paramedics, as well as equipment to set up a state-of-the-art mobile hospital, to the Philippines on Wednesday. Heading the mission will be Col. Ramtin Sabati, who commands the National Rescue Unit, and will also include deputy Medical Corps chief Col. Dudu Dagan, who will act as commander of the field hospital.
Israel assembled a similar hospital in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake there, equipped with an intensive care unit and a maternity ward.
Members of the IDF’s Home Front Command and of the Foreign Ministry are already in the Philippines evaluating how Israel can most effectively provide aid, by assessing the situation and the country’s infrastructure.
The Home Front Command’s Search and Rescue Unit, whose past operations include disaster relief in Haiti and Kenya, is also assisting Philippine authorities in their rescue and recovery efforts.
Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Menashe Bar-On stated that “the Philippines and the Filipino People are close friends with Israel and the Jewish people,” adding that “at this moment, our urgent task is to extend help to the Philippine government.”
Transportation Minister Israel Katz announced Tuesday that Israel and the Philippines had agreed to allow 21 direct flights a week to operate between the two countries. A spokeswoman for the Transportation Ministry said that while the contract had been finalized three days before the typhoon struck, this agreement would likely bolster Israel’s support of the Philippines in the future as the latter country rebuilds itself.
Meanwhile, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has begun collecting donations online and over the phone for disaster relief, with support from the Jewish Federations of North America.
“As part of our ongoing response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, JDC will ship a container of critically important food, shelter, hygiene and medical supplies and will ensure the provision of water and sanitation items and shelter support through its partners the Afya Foundation and Catholic Relief Services,” the group said Tuesday.
It added that would be sending an advance team of disaster relief and development experts to the Philippines later this week “to assess damage and needs as well as consult with our local/international partners and the Filipino Jewish community to ensure maximum impact for storm survivors.”
The organization has a history with the East Asian country: As recently as 2009, the JDC and an Israeli partner fought a cholera outbreak there following another typhoon.
Israeli humanitarian organization IsraAID has already dispatched seven medical professionals to Tacloban City, one of the Philippine regions that suffered the most damage.
IsraAID chairman Shachar Zahavi told the Post on Sunday that the group’s immediate goal was “health intervention.”
Zahavi said that once the organization better understood the scope of the disaster, it would also deploy trauma professionals and child protection specialists. (Donations to IsraAid for this project can be made through the UJA’s Philippines Typhoon Relief Fund…Ed.)
Besides the Israeli and Jewish humanitarian aid, the UN has allocated $25 million for immediate relief efforts in the Philippines and is appealing for an additional $301m. The United States has committed $20m., and the International Red Cross is aiming to raise $94.6m., which it says would provide 100,000 families with food, clean water, shelter and other relief for the next 18 months.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.