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Friday, December 6, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda): U.S. and International Response to Philippines Disaster - R43309

Thomas Lum
Coordinator, Specialist in Asian Affairs

Rhoda Margesson
Coordinator, Specialist in International Humanitarian Policy

This report examines the impact of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which struck the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, and the U.S. and international response. Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) was one of the strongest typhoons (cyclones) to strike land on record. Over a 16 hour period, the “super typhoon,” with a force equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane and sustained winds of up to 195 mph, directly swept through six provinces and affected over 10% of the nation’s population of 105 million people. The areas damaged by the typhoon were some of the poorest parts of the Philippines.

Congressional concerns related to the storm and its aftermath include the immediate U.S. and international humanitarian response, the impact on the U.S. foreign aid budget, the long-term U.S. foreign aid strategy for the Philippines, and how the U.S. response to the disaster may impact the U.S.-Philippines relationship as well as regional geopolitical dynamics.

The disaster quickly created a humanitarian crisis. In some of the hardest hit areas, particularly in coastal communities in Leyte province and the southern tip of Eastern Samar, the storm knocked out power, telecommunications, and water supplies. Between 65% and 90% of structures were heavily damaged or destroyed. Two weeks after the typhoon, the Philippine government reported that an estimated 13.7 million people had been affected, with more than 3.43 million displaced (of which roughly 240,800 were housed in 1,096 evacuation centers). The government also reported that 792,000 people were evacuated in advance of the disaster. On November 25, an estimated 5,000 deaths were associated with the typhoon and more than 1,600 people were thought to be missing. All these numbers remain fluid and subject to revision.

The ongoing humanitarian relief operation is being led by the Philippine government. The United Nations, along with other partners, including the United States, is supporting the current on-theground response for humanitarian assistance. Apart from U.N. agencies, those responding to the crisis include international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Private Voluntary Agencies (PVOs), and bilateral and multilateral donors. On November 12, 2013, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs appealed for $301 million in the Haiyan Action Plan to provide life-saving assistance and early recovery support. On November 22, the Plan increased to $348 million, based on assessments completed as partners gained better access to affected areas. As of November 22, U.S. funding for the humanitarian response included nearly $52 million to support activities through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of Defense (DOD) humanitarian relief operations.

At its peak, approximately 50 U.S. military ships and aircraft were involved in relief efforts and nearly 1,000 U.S. military personnel were deployed directly to disaster areas. The USS George Washington naval task force as well as elements of the 31
st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from Okinawa formed the majority of Joint Task Force (JTF) 505, which coordinated and carried out U.S. military relief efforts (Operation Damayan). U.S. military assistance included transporting aid workers, clearing roads, distributing relief supplies, and evacuating those affected by the typhoon. On November 24, 2013, DOD officials announced it would begin to transition all of its relief efforts to the Philippine government.

The involvement of U.S. military forces in Haiyan relief efforts has come at a time of growing U.S.-Philippine security cooperation. The United States and the Philippines maintain close ties stemming from the U.S. colonial period (1898-1946), a security alliance, and common strategic and economic interests. Other pillars of the bilateral bond include shared democratic values and extensive people-to-people contacts. U.S. military forces engage in regular joint exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The United States also has an ongoing, limited, nonpermanent military presence in the country engaged in counterterrorism and humanitarian activities.

This report will be updated as events warrant. For background and information on the Philippines, see CRS Report RL33233, The Republic of the Philippines and U.S. Interests. For background on how the U.S. responds to international disasters, see CRS Report RL33769, International Crises and Disasters: U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Response Mechanisms.

Date of Report: November 25, 2013
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: R43309
Price: $29.95

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