International Development Secretary Justine Greening today hosted the first aid coordination meeting for UN agencies and donor governments since Typhoon Haiyan, securing a commitment to prioritise humanitarian access and the protection of women and girls.
Donors like the UK, US, EU, and other countries including Sweden, alongside UN agencies, agreed that the devastation wrought by the disaster is hampering the ability of relief organisations to get their aid to where it is needed.
They agreed to focus efforts on delivery capacity and coordination in order to open up the roads and transport corridors to get emergency relief to the people who need it.
Participants at the high level meeting at the Department for International Development (DFID) in London also committed to ensuring the protection of women and girls is at the heart of their emergency response from the very start.
Previous natural disasters have seen an increase in violence and abuse against women and girls – and in particular the trafficking of girls. As part of its response to the Philippines disaster, the UK is providing special supplies that are warehoused for emergencies such as this, including solar lanterns with built-in mobile phone chargers for remote and vulnerable communities. These allow women and girls to move more safely after dark and increase channels of communication which will improve the safety of women and girls.
Justine Greening said:
“The scale of this disaster is profound. That is why co-ordination between all the agencies involved is vital to ensure the help so desperately needed across the Philippines gets in as quickly as possible and gets to those who need it most.
“We also know that women and girls are often the most at risk after disasters such as the terrible typhoon which has struck the Philippines. Large-scale natural disasters leave them at risk to violence or abuse, particularly in situations where people are homeless and without vital supplies and access to basic services.”
Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, said:
“Violence against women and girls is of serious concern to WFP and we have a special responsibility to be part of the solution to this problem. Together we can go beyond simply saving lives and contribute to the wider protection and dignity of those we serve. The time has come to see change on the ground.”
The meeting came as Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne chaired a meeting in central London bringing together Ministers from the departments leading our response to this emergency – DFID, MOD, FCO, DH, DCLG – and, by videolink, HM Ambassador to Manila to ensure that the UK is doing everything possible to help the Philippines and that the effort is fully coordinated across Whitehall.
Ministers agreed to stand ready to respond to any further requests from the Government of the Philippines or the UN as well as encouraging other international partners and neighbours to provide much needed assistance with logistics and emergency aid.
Notes to editors
Attendees at the DFID-convened Philippines coordination meeting included representatives of Australia, Canada, ECHO, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the United States, the Red Cross, International Organisation for Migration, UN OCHA, UN Women, UNFPA, UNHRC, UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme.
The DFID-convened emergency response meeting took place as a side event to the high level event held at Lancaster House in London this afternoon for Governments, UN heads, international NGOs and civil society organisations to agree a fundamental new approach to protecting girls and women in emergency situations, both man-made and natural disasters.
As part of DFID’s response to Typhoon Haiyan, the UK launched its new Rapid Response Facility, a network of specialist aid organisations and private businesses who can get aid on the ground quickly. As part of this process, all our partners are being required to assess the risk of violence to women and girls and address their specific needs. It has also deployed a protection specialist as part of our field team.