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What the Philippines must learn, to cope with its natural disasters.
People across the world have been moved by the heartbreaking images of the ruins of Tacloban town, which was shattered by giant waves and winds that threw houses and trucks in the air like litter. The overwhelming natural disaster, caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Visayan islands of central Philippines, has brought aid agencies, relief goods and donations from across the globe. This apocalyptic disaster, which has affected more than a million people, has resulted in intense suffering and grief.
This is not the first time, and it is unlikely to be the last, that international humanitarian aid has been needed by the Philippines. The country is regularly ravaged by typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Because of the recent storms and earthquakes in the country, it was lacking the relief goods needed to meet the massive requirements generated by last Friday's disaster.
Hopefully, the international community's support will continue even after the initial shock has worn away. Such support has not always been the norm. Only a year ago, Typhoon Bopha almost escaped the world's attention, although its powerful winds destroyed the homes and livelihoods of millions of people in the southern region of Mindanao. Bopha was among last year's biggest natural disasters anywhere on earth — 1,200 people lost their lives in winds that peaked at nearly 200 miles per hour. The scene in the main town of Baganga was one of pure destruction. Coconut trees were lying on the ground, like discarded matchsticks, for miles. Trees continued to block the main roads of many communities even three months after the catastrophe.
Typhoon Bopha hit the Philippines at a time when the world was focused on the Syrian crisis. TV news was filled with the images of frightened Syrians escaping the civil war and fleeing to vast refugee centres. The world — or global media — only seems to have space for one humanitarian disaster at a time. Aid agencies were working hard on the ground in the Philippines. But the relief effort was made difficult by the lack of donations.
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