UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged Philippine typhoon survivors to “never despair” as he pledged to rally global backing to help them recover from one of their country’s deadliest disasters.
“Never despair. The UN is behind you. The world is behind you,” the UN secretary-general said during a visit to the devastated central city of Tacloban, which suffered more than 5,000 deaths from Super Typhoon Haiyan, which swept through the central islands of the Philippines on Nov. 8.
Wearing a baseball cap, the 69-year-old Ban walked through a narrow, debris-strewn street in Fatima, a coastal district in the city of 220,000 people where tsunami-like storm surges wrought by the typhoon obliterated entire neighborhoods.
Ban also visited a Tacloban tent school, put up by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), where pupils sang Christmas carols for him inside a white UN-donated tent. He joined them in clapping and swaying to the music.
More than 200 heavily armed police provided security from the airport to the school. Ban’s flight was delayed because of poor visibility and overcast skies.
The typhoon left 6,102 people dead and 1,779 missing, according to a government tally.
Ravaging an area the size of Portugal, it inflicted US$12.9 billion in damage and left 4.4 million people homeless. The Philippine government said it would need US$8.17 billion over four years to fund a massive rebuilding effort.
The UN earlier this month launched a global US$791 million call for aid to take care of the needs of the survivors over the next 12 months. A UN statement said about 30 percent, or US$237 million, has already been raised.
Ban told reporters he was “very impressed” with the residents’ efforts to get back on their feet.
Ban arrived in Manila late on Friday for a three-day visit and called on Philippine President Benigno Aquino III earlier yesterday before flying to Tacloban.