As the Philippines continues to reel from the devastating typhoon which has left an estimated 10,000 people dead, a staggering 800,000 missing and whole neighborhoods flattened, Jewish and Israeli aid agencies are stepping in to provide emergency relief.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and IsraAID have begun planning their responses to the ongoing crisis, which has also cut communications in the country, leaving hundreds of thousands isolated from any kind of help. Israel's Foreign Ministry has also announced that it will send a search and rescue team.
In a statement Sunday, the JDC’s CEO Alan Hill said, “Our heartfelt prayers go out to the Filipino people in the wake of yesterday’s deadly storm. We immediately activated our network of global partners and will leverage our previous experience in the region to provide immediate, strategic relief to survivors in their time of need.”
“These efforts are especially poignant for us given the Philippines’s life-saving actions during the Second World War when the country offered safe haven to more than 1,000 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi onslaught. It is our privilege today to honor that historic debt,” he added.
JDC has done previous work in the Philippines, including playing a part in fighting post-typhoon cholera in 2009, he noted.
IsraAID reportedly plans to send a team of medical and trauma professionals to the region to assist local NGOs and UN agencies. The agency has responded to crises around the world in recent years, including in Haiti, Mumbai, and South Sudan.
The Foreign Ministry has announced that Israel will send a search and rescue team with experience in searching damaged buildings, as well as a medical team. Israel has frequently offered aid in the wake of disasters overseas, including the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 and an earthquake in Turkey in 2011.
Israel has particularly close ties with the Philippines. There are at least 30,000 Philippine citizens living and working in Israel, and possibly tens of thousands more; several thousand have received Israeli citizenship.
Philippine citizens who spoke to Israeli news outlets on Sunday expressed extreme concern for the fate of relatives in the Philippines who they have not been able to contact due to the typhoon's impact on communications in the country.