New Zealander heading global team responding to ‘desperate need’ in the Philippines
Mark Mitchell, an emergency response expert with Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, is on the ground in the Philippines, leading a global response team for the international Caritas network.
Mark is heading up a five member Emergency Response and Support Team based in Cebu. Brought together to support Caritas Philippines, the team is coordinating the global Caritas relief effort after the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan, which has displaced or left homeless 4.01 million people.
‘People here are in desperate need. We are working hard to get emergency supplies to where they are most needed’, he says.
‘Water, food, medicine, shelter, hygiene and sanitation are immediate priorities. As well as clearing debris and sorting logistics so aid can get through’, says Mark.
Mark travelled with the Australian Air Force yesterday carrying 500 tarpaulins from the New Zealand government to Tacloban, one of the worst hit cities.
‘There were people, dust, planes everywhere – incredibly loud with hundreds and hundreds people queued up to get on flights out of Tacloban. There were trees broken half way up and the airport terminal destroyed,’ he said.
‘We saw the ceaseless activity of international aid and the challenges that come with it,’ said Mark. ‘But working in partnership with Caritas Philippines means we have a good mechanism to deliver these emergency, essential supplies as quickly as possible. We are here to listen to what people want and assist however we can’.
Caritas Philippines has distributed more than 68,310 relief packs as well as NZ$365,888 to local diocese for food and immediate needs – this has gone to help 345,000 people.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand launched an emergency appeal for the Philippines last week. Already, well over $250,000 has been raised. This funding will help provide essential food, hygiene kits, non-food household items and shelter repairs for 55,000 of the most vulnerable households (275,000 people) severely impacted by the Typhoon.
‘We are also providing boats, seeds and chickens to support these people returning to their livelihoods as soon as possible,’ says Mark.
‘We know from our experience in Christchurch that recovery takes a long time,’ he says. ‘While the emergency appeal is for three months, the journey to help rebuild a region and its people takes a lot longer. Caritas Internationalis will be here working in partnership with Caritas Philippines once the global spotlight has gone,’ he says.
Mark leads the humanitarian work programme of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand. He has worked in emergencies in Kosovo, Africa and Christchurch.