Some 44 tons of High Energy Biscuits (HEBs), enough to feed 120,000 people for a day, are now in the Philippines capital Manila, ready for airlift to the storm-ravaged city of Tacloban, in the eastern Leyte province. HEBs (see picture below) are precious in the early stages of an emergency as they are nutritious, need no cooking and are easy to transport.
WFP has allocated 200 tons of the biscuits for the first phase of the response. A further 160 tons will be arriving in Manila in coming days.
As well as mobilizing food supplies, WFP is also using its logistics expertise in support of the government-led relief effort for the hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need.
“The main challenges right now are related to logistics. Roads are blocked, airports are destroyed,” said WFP Representative Praveen Agrawal, who took part in an assessment mission in the affected areas at the weekend.
“We’re working with the government to set up operational hubs and organize airlifts of supplies,” he continued.
WFP is working to fly food, logistics and communications equipment to Cebu airport in Leyte. At 150 km, it is the closest functioning airport to Tacloban.
WFP currently has 10 staff on the ground in Tacloban to mobilize assistance. There is no food, water or electricity in the city and many roads are impassable due to debris. All airports but one in the affected area are unusable.
WFP, which is leading the logistics side of the international humanitarian response, is also mobilizing logistics supplies.
Mobile storage units, pre-fabricated offices and generators are being sent from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Malaysia. This will allow aid workers to set up operational hubs at Tacloban and Cebu airports. Meanwhile, IT equipment including digital radios is on its way from Dubai.
The devastation in Tacloban has shocked aid workers and journalists who have visited, underlining the immense power of the storm that raged through the city.
WFP Country Director Agrawal, who took part in an assessment mission on Saturday, said he met one man who was caught up in the sudden flood of seawater and rain which hit Tacloban but, incredibly, survived.
“He was caught by the first surge [of the storm] in his village that first flushed him inland and then, as the waters swung back out, he was dragged out to sea and brought back 12 kms away near the airport.”