Monday, February 3, 2014

Philippine Notes: Statistical Shock

It was weird to wake up Monday morning to learn that the Super Bowl hadn't even started. But that's what crossing the International Date Line will do this time of year.

As if the muddled math of 13 time zones weren't enough to overwhelm one's jet-lagged brain, the delegation's first morning in Manila started with a orientation from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) staff on the response to Typhoon Haiyan. This involved even more numbers, many of them shocking.

Joe Curry of CRS explained to us that, among other things:

  • The Philippines is the third most disaster-prone country on Earth. It's not unusual for them to get over 20 tropical storms a year. However, there have been 26 in the past year, which Curry said, is "really off the charts."
  • The Philippines competes with China in terms of economic growth, but that isn't reaching the poorest people. Fourteen percent of people in the Philippines live on $2 a day.
  • Typhoon Haiyan (or Yolanda, as it's called in the Philippines) was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. It produced a storm surge of 8-15 feet and crossed the entire country as a category 5 storm (most storms weaken after they make landfall).
  • Some 12 million people were affected by the storm, with 550,928 houses damaged or destroyed, five times that of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Four million people were displaced.
  • Haiyan left over 20 miles of coastal devastation, as well as 6,183 people dead and some 1,500 missing.
  • Somewhere between 40-50 thousand people left the city of Tacloban, with an earlier population of 250,000. Of the 70,000 residents of Palo, 1,000 are gone.
  • In response, CRS brought in 112 metric tons of air freight within four weeks.
  • CRS has helped build 20,000 new and repaired shelters, approximately 15,000 is rural areas and 5,000 in urban areas.

These numbers served as a partial preparation for what the delegation would be seeing in the days ahead. That part of the trip will show, in human terms, what these numbers really mean.

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