UPDATE (MONDAY, Nov. 11) Heifer is currently en route to assess the damage to our projects in the areas mostly heavily affected by super typhoon Haiyan, Heifer Philippines Country Director Herc Paradiang said Monday. 

Heifer Philippines regional manager Rico Locaba was on his way late Sunday night Little Rock time to Samar and Tacloban and Leyte/Ormoc tonight to assess our five project areas. It could take much longer than expected for him to reach the project sites as media are reporting that fallen trees and other debris are clogging roads, Paradiang said. 

Heifer was also able to make contact with staff and partners in Southern Leyte, but phone signals were spotty and communication hasn't been consistent enough to verify reports of damage there.

Paradiang said that Mabe Basco, Heifer's administrative manager based in Manila reported that the most urgent needs were for food, water, clothing and medicine. We are working to provide that relief to our 4,000 project members as soon as possible with the aid of other organzations and the local government. 

Right now Paradiang said food for one person per day is expected to cost about $4. With 4,000 project members affected, and the road to recovery long and arduous, we need your help in providing all the assistance we can to the Philippines.

Please help our farmers begin to recover from this storm.

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UPDATE (SUNDAY 1 p.m.)
Heifer has successfully contacted all our central Philippines staff in the wake of super typhoon Haiyan, and they are all OK, however it is becoming clearer that our project areas were devastated by the force of the storm. 

Heifer now knows that virtually all of our farming families in the direct line of the typhoon—about 4,000 people—will need immediate assistance. We will supplement the efforts of government and relief agencies with food, water and roofing materials to help meet basic shelter needs. 

We have staff trying to reach the affected areas from both the north and the south and expect an initial community-level report within the next few days.

Please help our farmers. The road to recovery for them will be long. 


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UPDATE (SUNDAY, Nov. 10):
News from the central region of the Philippines has been trickling in since super typhoon Haiyan blasted the country Thursday evening local time, and Heifer International is still lacking details about one staff member and many of our farmers who were affected by the storm, Herc Paradiang, Heifer Philippines country director said Sunday.

As of mid-day Sunday in Manila, Heifer staff had little significant information from the communities due to downed power and communication lines, Paradiang said. We do know that roads are impassable due to fallen trees and various types of debris, making any rescue and relief efforts to retrieve more specific information difficult.

Staff is still trying to reach our staff member in Baybay, Leyte. Attempts to this time have continued to prove unsuccessful.

Right now, Heifer is readying two teams to move into the affected areas when the roads are declared passable, Paradiang said. The first team, from the Bicol region, will be headed by Heifer Philippines regional manager Rico Locaba, and will try to travel through the port connecting Matnog in Sorsogon (Bicol Region) to Allen, Northern Samar which is the gateway from Samar to Leyte Provinces (about 10-12 hours ride) using a Heifer truck.

The other team will come from the Southern Philippines. Staff will fly to Cebu and take a fast ferry to Ormoc City to try to locate our second staff member and make other assessments. From Ormoc, both teams will join together to assess project areas in different villages in the municipalities of Hinunangan and Hinundayan, Southern Leyte; Macrohon, Southern Leyte; Ormoc City, Leyte; and Calubian.

Please help our farmers.

While news is dire, Heifer believes teaching resilience is one way to keep our farmers safe in the face of natural disasters. That’s why each project there undergoes Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction training.

Heifer has about 1,250 project families in five projects in these areas. Families had at least 36 hours notice about the severity of the typhoon from both the Philippine government and Heifer programs staff.

While about 300 people have been confirmed dead, some reports indicate the death toll could reach as many as 10,000. If that number is realized, Haiyan stands to be the deadliest natural disaster on record in the Philippines. 

Continue to check back here for more news on our farmers as we receive it from the field.

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UPDATE (SATURDAY, Nov. 9)
: One of two Heifer Philippines central region staff had made contact with the country program office on Saturday, two days after super typhoon Haiyan slammed the central part of the island nation, said Heifer Philippines Administrative Manager Mabe Basco. 

Central Region Program Manager Rico Locaba was planning to go for assessment in the Ormoc areas as of Saturday morning, but communication was not re-established after that information was obtained. Basco was still trying to reach the second staff member in the area. 

"I'm trying to get the latest information on our project partner communities and families in Samar Leyte and Ormoc areas which were badly affected by the typhoon," Basco wrote to our staff at Heifer headquarters from Manila Saturday morning.

Basco did say that she was able to talk with staff from a dairy project partner in Ormoc who relayed information from the wife of a Heifer Community Animal Health Worker. The only information provided was that many houses there were damaged, animal sheds had buckled and feed and forage were soaked. 

Basco said she is working to validate this initial information by contacting those we know in the field. "So far it is very, very hard," she said.

USA Today was reporting Saturday that 1,200 are feared dead in the storm's aftermath, a number estimated by the Red Cross.

Heifer has set up another call with Philippines staff for later tonight, and we will report more specific information then, if any can be provided. 

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UPDATE (FRIDAY, Nov. 8)
: Heifer has not heard from Heifer Philippines staff or our farmers in the central region that was hit hardest by super typhoon Haiyan as of Friday morning local time (approximately 11 p.m. Friday in Manila), while staff and project participants in the northern and southern regions of the country reported they were not significantly affected by the storm.

Communication lines in our project areas of Leyte, Southern Leyte and Northern Samar in the Visayas region were cut off and electricity was also out, said Mabe Basco, Heifer Philippines administrative manager. Heifer has about 1,250 project families in five projects in these areas. Families had at least 36 hours notice about the severity of the typhoon from both the Philippine government and Heifer programs staff.

Farmers in Agusan del Sur, which bore the brunt of typhoon Bopha in December 2012, told our program officers they experienced heavy rain and strong winds in the evening, but that the rain has subsided and they were able to complete a scheduled training Friday, Basco said. 

The Philippines is Heifer's best prepared of any country to handle natural disasters, primarily because of the Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction training that was pioneered there about four years ago. CMDRR addresses disaster preparedness, and participants are taught how to secure livestock and feed, to harvest crops for food, to secure water and firewood, and to safeguard important papers, education materials and cash. 

Project members also work to identify primary hazards to their communities. They then map their area to determine which households are the most vulnerable and work to establish evacuation centers.

Heifer cannot say for sure how many of the 1,250 families had received the CMDRR training as of November 7 when Haiyan hit because some of the projects there are new. We do know, however, that our farmers were moving to more secure areas and buildings, like schools, as the government was also working on evacuations in the region. 

Basco is communicating with headquarters and will send further updates as soon as she hears from staff there. More will be known about specific damage to our project communities then.

Though Heifer is not a relief organization, as soon as we know the extent of the damage to our projects, we will work to supplement the work of relief organizations to help our farmers recover. Please help our farmers.  

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UPDATE (9:15 p.m.):Preliminary damage reports are coming in from the Philippines, and while we are still awaiting word from country staff on how projects are faring, we know winds and rain from typhoon Haiyan are lashing eastern provinces, whipping up 12- to 15-foot waves, and felling trees in others. Communication lines were still operating out of Manila at 7 p.m. local time (9 a.m. in Manila), and we will provide updates on project participants as soon as we have them. 

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UPDATE (6:24 p.m.): Typhoon Haiyan has made landfall with windspeeds gusting above 230 mph. That has prompted some weather experts to call it the strongest tropical cyclone at landfall, according to NBC News. We will continue to update our blog as more details are made available as this super typhoon is impacting our project communities. Please help our farmers.

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Super typhoon Haiyan was nearing landfall on the Philippines Thursday evening, packing winds up to 195 mph and threatening many in the central and eastern regions including Heifer project participants in Visayas and Mindanao. The storm, one of the strongest ever seen, was causing evacuations of thousands in coastal, low-lying and mountainous areas alike.

Haiyan is the second exceptionally strong typhoon to threaten the island nation in less than a year. Typhoon Bopha, the equivalent to a category 5 hurricane, hit Mindanao in December of 2012 and decimated croplands, stripped hillsides of forests and left thousands homeless or with severe damage to their homes.  

According to Herc Paradiang, Heifer's country director for the Philippines, country staff alerted all project partners and self-help group leaders of the typhoon. They were working to establish communication lines that they would be continually updated as to the storm's damage. Paradiang said this will help inform those who have had Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction training to put their plans in place. For those communities who have not yet received the training, the communication lines will help them understand what measures to take to secure items needed after such a storm, he said.

Typhoon Haiyan was expected to make landfall on Guiuan, then traverse the provinces of Leyte, Biliran, Northern tip of Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, Romblon, Semirara Island, Southern part of Mindoro then Busuanga and will exit the Philippine landmass (Saturday morning) towards the West Philippine Sea. Rainfall amounts were estimated at an inch or more per hour. Track the storm

While the typhoon is expected to affect a wide swath of the island nation, Heifer is concerned about 11 current and former project sites. Those sites are in Leyte, Southern Leyte, Northern Samar, Surigao Del Norte, Surigao Del Sur, Agusan Del Norte, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Negros Oriental and Agusan del Sur.

Agusan del Sur was badly damaged by Bopha. In last year's storm, nearly 400 families involved in Heifer proejcts lost all or part of their homes and many lost livestock. More than 250 pigs and 90 goats died in the storm, and families saw more than 1,000 acres of rice, corn and banana lands ruined. The damage from Bopha to our projects was estimated at about $550,000.

Read how Heifer helped mobilized both relief and long-term efforts to help residents there rebuild after Bopha. Or donate to help our farmers today.

The photo included in this post was taken just after typhoon Bopha hit Sayon, Philippines.
Photo credit: Nacho Hernandez 

Author

Annie Bergman

Bergman is a Global Communications Manager for Heifer and helps plan, assign and develop content for the nonprofit’s website, magazine and blog. Bergman has interviewed survivors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, beekeepers in Honduras, women’s groups in India and war widows in Kosovo in her six years at Heifer. Bergman received her bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma and a master’s degree in Australian Aboriginal Studies from the University of Melbourne in Australia. Her hobbies include hiking, golfing, cooking, reading and walking her dogs.