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Japan sends medical team for Typhoon Haiyan victims

A Japan Disaster Relief medical team from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan’s overseas aid agency, has arrived in the Philippines to assist the humanitarian response to Typhoon Haiyan which struck the Philippines over the weekend. This forms part of Japan’s $30 million emergency grant aid package to support the Philippines.

A forward team of three people arrived in Tacloban, a city on the Eastern coast of the Philippines where the storm made landfall, on 12 November to assess the situation there. The remaining members, along with medical equipment, arrived on the evening of 14 November after security concerns delayed their progress.

Twenty seven Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) members, with additional interpretation and security support personnel, started work in Rizal Park in Tacloban city on the morning of 15 November, setting up tents and equipment for medical treatment.  According to the UN, more than 11 million people have been affected by the storm, with at least 2,300 killed.

The team remain in constant contact with the Government of the Philippines and other donor countries to plan their areas of operation. The main team includes four doctors, seven nurses, two pharmacists and medical technician specialists.

JICA initially dispatched relief goods to the value of $610,000 – including 500 tents, 620 plastic sheets, 2,000 sleeping pads, 20 water purifiers and 20 cable reels.

A vice-captain from the Japan Disaster Relief team acknowledged that the damage on the island of Leyte was much larger than anticipated. The vice-captain commented: “According to local NGOs, all kinds of goods are lacking and therefore the assistance needs are huge. The typhoon caused catastrophic damage to medical facilities and currently it is approximated that only one-tenth of much needed medical services are being provided”.

The vice-captain noted that in some areas the security situation was unstable but also pointed out that the Philippines had provided Japan with substantial assistance in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

Japan plans to provide a total of approximately $52.1 million for the Philippine typhoon disaster, which includes up to 1,000 troops to assist with relief efforts.