Church aid agency ACT urges climate action after Philippines disaster

(Photo: REUTERS / Bobby Yip)Tacloban residents wait for military flights inside the terminal of Tacloban airport, damaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan, in central Philippines November 12, 2013. A U.S. aircraft carrier set sail for the Philippines on Tuesday to accelerate relief efforts after Typhoon Haiyan killed an estimated 10,000 people in one coastal city alone, with fears the toll could rise sharply as rescuers reach more isolated towns.

World church leaders have called for prayers and also action following typhoon Haiyan's devastation of the Philippines, which has claimed thousands of lives and left many, many more homeless.

Although the official death toll on Wednesday was around 2,275 it was expected to rise to around 10,000.

The United Nations said about 673,000 are without homes and 11 million people are affected by one the worst known typhoons.

The U.N.'s World Food Program said the main challenges aid agencies face are related to logistics as roads are blocked and airports.

Some analysts ascribed the wild climate activity that has hit the world in the recent times to climate change linked to global warming and increased carbon levels in the atmosphere.

The Geneva-based ACT Alliance urged global climate negotiators at the COP19 talks on the climate in Warsaw, Poland to convert their words into real action and progress in the negotiations, leading to the protection of vulnerable communities.

"Over the next two weeks, COP19 negotiators will tackle the issue of loss and damage. This is related to addressing climate change impact that is beyond adaptation and leads to complete loss and damage of livelihoods.

"We need to see firm commitment on this," ACT general secretary John Nduna said.


ACT Alliance is calling for strong international support and solidarity with the victims of Haiyan, with the full understanding that this is yet another climate disaster.

"Hundreds of thousands of people are left desperate, homeless and without food and water. COP19 must make substantial progress to establish a mechanism to reduce future losses and damages," Nduna said.

The Philippine's Catholic bishops have called for special prayers and charity for the victims and grieving families of the super typhoon, which struck at the weekend, killing an estimated 10,000 people, Vatican Radio reported.

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, media director of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the funds raised during the novena, which runs until November 19, will be channeled to the crisis region through Caritas Philippines.

He said the region where the typhoon hit is home to several dioceses, though two were hardest-hit - the diocese of Borongan and the archdiocese of Palo.

In Borongan, which was the typhoon's first landfall, a UNESCO heritage church was razed and up to 95 per cent of the homes in the parish were also destroyed, though many questions remain, he said.

"In Borongan, we have no concrete reports because all communication lines are down and all power lines are down, and we could not get through to get the exact situation," Quitorio said.

In Palo, in which is situated the city of Tacloban, about 10,000 people are estimated dead.

The monsignor said that much church infrastructure was destroyed, including the cathedral of Palo and the important shrine of Santo Nino. But he said the priority is rebuilding the lives of people and not buildings.


The World Council of Churches which represents around 560 million mainly Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant Christians said that through its welfare arm, the ACT Alliance its churches were moving into gear to offer assistance.

"We recognize in these cataclysmic events that it is most often the poor who suffer and have the most difficult challenge to rebuild their lives with few resources," the WCC said in a statement Tuesday.

"We call upon aid agencies and governments not to forget the poorest, from whom the little they had has been taken away.

"In what is perhaps the largest storm to date in the region, we recognize the reality of changing weather patterns and the increasing intensity of storms, and we pray that all of us will do our part to reverse the warming of the oceans and remember that it is the poor who will suffer first and the most in any weather disaster."

The Geneva-based ACT Alliance said it was immediately advancing tens of thousands of dollars to its member National Christian Council Philippines (NCCP).

ACT member Lutheran World Relief (LWR) was to lead the humanitarian assistance team to the Eastern Visayas city of Tacloban and surrounding areas of northern Leyte, with a representative from fellow ACT member UK-based Christian Aid.

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