By: Jenelle Eli
Brennan Banks is a disaster specialist deployed by the American Red Cross to the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan’s landfall. Brennan’s team is coordinating the international Red Cross typhoon response—providing expertise in shelter, relief supply distributions, emergency cash distributions and information management. We caught up with Brennan in Ormoc City, Philippines.
What are you seeing and hearing in the Philippines?
We are witnessing widespread damage here. Typhoon Haiyan was so strong that 90% of homes and buildings here were damaged. The sound of hammering is all around us and it’s constant—people are trying to rebuild their homes.
What type of work are you doing?
We’re setting up a field office and carrying out “rapid assessments” in Ormoc City, which help us to quickly identify needs and priorities in the affected areas. We are delivering relief supplies including water cans, tarps and tents to communities around Ormoc City. Of course, the work we do is in support of and in coordination with the Philippine Red Cross.
What has this week been like for you?
We completed rapid assessments in 19 of the barangays [towns] that were most in need of assistance in Ormoc. Then we worked with the Philippine Red Cross to design relief distribution plans and we trained them on a new technology called RapidLite. It is a registration system that allows us to track the supplies and helps us gather contact information for the people receiving the relief supplies so we can reach them later with additional services. It’s the first time we have deployed this new technology for a major disaster – it makes relief distribution and registration more efficient.
We began delivery of relief supplies in Ormoc over the weekend and reached 1,000 households. The Philippine Red Cross team will continue the work around Ormoc and on Tuesday our team relocated to Tacloban to assist with distributions in that community.
How is your work making a difference?
Coordinating humanitarian activities after a disaster is important because when all the partners on the ground aren’t working together, they could duplicate efforts or overlook needs. In addition, our team is helping the Philippine Red Cross with damage assessments and data. We’re also helping the Philippine Red Cross to increase its capacity to serve people affected by the typhoon.
What is one thing that has surprised you?
Today and everyday, I continue to be amazed by the resiliency of the Philippine people. Amid widespread devastation and suffering, there are smiling faces everywhere we go. People are constantly greeting us with smiles and thanking us for being here.
What is the one thing you would like people in the U.S. to know about this response?
The people of the Philippines describe having never experienced anything like this before. While all eyes are on Tacloban and its destruction from the typhoon, there also are multiple regions outside of Tacloban that were damaged by wind gusts at speeds never recorded before.