Tears of joy greet promise of €3m aid to typhoon-hit village
The promise of a further €3m in aid from the Irish people to the Philippines was met with tears of joy in a small typhoon-ravaged village.
Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello made the announcement yesterday as he toured some of the areas where Irish money is helping rebuild communities.
"We want to thank you and the people of Ireland because you were the first ones to help us when Yolanda came and destroyed our homes," cried the village chief of Alegria in Leyte.
Mr Costello, who has met with officials from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs during his visit, said that the people were "very appreciative for just how quick we were out of the blocks and for being here for the second phase of recovery".
The new funding brings Ireland's donations to the ravaged island nation to more than €11m. The Irish people gave €4m through charities and today's announcement means Irish Aid has now given a total of €7.1m.
Mr Costello described Irish people's donations as "extraordinarily generous".
He is the first Irish politician to visit the country since the worst typhoon in the world's history hit last November 8.
"I am shocked by the scale of destruction here in Tacloban and the surrounding area of Leyte island. It is only when you see it firsthand, that the enormity of the task becomes clear," he said.
Speaking to a group of locals in a small, makeshift hut in Alegria, the minister confirmed Ireland's commitment to them through the charity Plan Ireland, for the next two years. The news was met with tears of gratitude and rapturous applause.
Asked why the Irish Government has pledged another two years and €3m worth of support, the minister said: "Irish Aid has a practice of also seeking to assist the recovery, after it's gone out of the news to reassess the situation after three or four months."
Rosa Castro, whose home and business were washed away in the typhoon, had been living in an Irish Aid tent since November but following support from Plan Ireland has rebuilt her house and shop. The minister visited her family yesterday evening.
After touring some of the worst-hit regions, Mr Costello described the scene as "utter devastation".
"The height of the waves up to eight metres, the force of the winds, the worst typhoon in living memory ever reported. Livelihoods were wiped out, schools were wiped out so there's a major rebuilding process here," he said.
In total, 1.47 million people were made homeless, 6,200 people died and 2,000 are still missing after the 16-hour typhoon of 275kph winds and eight-metre storm surges.
The minister urged countries to continue their support for the Philippines at this critical stage, saying: "It's not good enough just to pour in personnel, services, resources for the humanitarian side."
Mr Costello, who met with many locals in the Filipino countryside and visited schools organised by Plan Ireland, praised the people in the face of the natural disaster.
"The future looks terribly bleak but they're smiling, they're happy, they're taking every day as it comes and they've a great attitude to the world," Mr Costello said.