Monday, November 11, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan

In the aftermath of the destruction wrought by super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has begun collecting funds for relief efforts. Responding to a quickly rising death toll and catastrophic destruction, JDC staff experts are consulting with local authorities, the Filipino Jewish community, and global partners to assess the unfolding situation on the ground and ensure survivors’ immediate needs are addressed. The typhoon, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, caused widespread damage to the island nation, especially the hardest-hit central city of Tacloban, and is barreling its way towards Vietnam.

 “Our heartfelt prayers go out to the Filipino people in the wake of yesterday’s deadly storm. We immediately activated our network of global partners and will leverage our previous experience in the region to provide immediate, strategic relief to survivors in their time of need,” said Alan H. Gill, JDC’s Chief Executive Officer. “These efforts are especially poignant for us given the Philippines’s life-saving actions during the Second World War when the country offered safe haven to more than 1,000 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi onslaught. It is our privilege today to honor that historic debt.”

 As damage reports and casualty rates continue to grow, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos remain inaccessible, without power and shelter in the wake of Haiyan, called Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. JDC has a history operating in the Philippines, previously helping to fight post-typhoon cholera through an Israeli partner in 2009 and working to enhance emerging Jewish community life through the inclusion of the Filipino Jewish community members in pan-Asian Jewish events. During the buildup to World War II, JDC ensured the emigration of more than 1,000 European Jews escaping Nazi persecution to the island nation. The story of European Jews who took refuge was the subject of “Rescue in the Philippines,” a recently released documentary. It followed the remarkable story of how one family – the Frieders – together with the JDC helped bring hundreds of European Jews to Manila, saving them from near certain tdeath in the Holocaust.

JDC’s disaster relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors to JDC. JDC coordinates its relief activities with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, Interaction, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Israeli relief agencies, and the United Nations.

JDC has provided immediate relief and long-term assistance to victims of natural and manmade disasters around the globe, including Haiti, Japan, and South Asia after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and continues to operate programs designed to rebuild infrastructure and community life in disaster-stricken regions.


Contact has been made with the Jewish Community in the Philippines and we have offered JDC's assistance, and requested their advice and counsel, and offered to partner with the community in responding to the disaster.  The majority of the community is situated in Manila with a a small Jewish community in Cebu, and a few in Boracay.  The community reported that there are probably a few Jews that were in the direct path of the Typhoon but they are not aware of them. Hopefully they will be in contact and if need be assistance will be provided.

We are at the stage where everything is still very fluid - we don't know how much money will be collected and have available to allocate,  we are assessing the extent of the needs on the ground and are identifying US, Israeli and local partners. Within the next few days we will be sending a JDC assessment team comprised of emergency response professionals, well versed in disasters and in identifying potential partners.

Currently we are working on upcoming interventions with USAID, Catholic Relief Services, Afya, Heart to Heart, UNICEF, the Israeli Embassy in the Philippines, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) - Field Hospital, MDA, Mashav, and other international partners of JDC from our previous disaster relief efforts.  There are several local organizations that we are vetting for disaster response capacity, some that have been working with JDC's Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI) so have a history of working with JDC.  We will work with multiple agencies depending on their capacity, access and track record with a priority for local agencies.

Our general rule is to provide one third of our funding (depending upon the amount of money we raise) to immediate relief - food, water, shelter, medical assistance and then our longer term focus is upon developing sustainable projects with vulnerable populations that have been impacted by the disaster.  Such programs can include infrastructure - the reconstruction of schools, hospitals, playgrounds that have been destroyed, and an additional set of programs that include training and capacity building through community development,  psychosocial/post trauma, education, where our focus is upon the most vulnerable populations, children, elderly, women and people with disabilities.  Wherever possible we prioritize working with local partners to build capacity and ensure sustainability.  Where appropriate we will use Israeli expertise and recognize the partnership, as well as utilize JDC's in-house expertise.

We will continue to send situational updates.

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