On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines and devastated several areas, including Leyte and Samar, where MCC is funding projects through its $434 million compact.
I joined a team from the U.S. Embassy that flew to the city of Tacloban last week to assess the scale of the damage and see where we could help. As we surveyed the area around the airport, I was able to see firsthand the true scale of the devastation wrought by one of the most powerful storms on record.
The devastation was unimaginable and heartbreaking. Many villages in Eastern Visayas—particularly along the coast—have been flattened, resulting in staggering losses of human life and possessions. Cities and villages in Leyte and Samar were unprepared for winds that reached more than 150 mph and a 10-15-foot storm surge that leveled homes and buildings where the local population sought refuge.
It is truly a shocking tragedy with profound human impact. However, in the depth of this human tragedy, the goodness and resilience of the Filipino people, the Philippine government, the U.S. Government, and the international community are rising above it all. I am in awe as I witness the rapid and large-scale international relief effort underway with the U.S. Government and U.S. military playing lead roles in coordinating and delivering relief supplies, medical assistance and basic services to affected communities.
I’m also grateful that MCC-funded contractors were able to join the relief effort by quickly clearing an important 222-kilometer road segment in Samar, currently under construction through our compact, so relief supplies can get through to remote villages in some of the hardest-hit areas. I also was heartened to learn that some of the MCC-funded Kalahi-CIDDS schools and day-care centers were used as shelters to protect individuals and families during the storm.
MCC’s compact with the Philippines will now take on even greater significance in the affected areas, particularly in Leyte and Samar. MCC-funded infrastructure such as roads, schools, day-care centers, health stations, and water systems will contribute to the long-term reconstruction and prosperity of the region.
The humanitarian response of the United States provides a beacon of good news amid the fog of wreckage. And while the damage left by Haiyan is difficult to describe, my MCA-Philippines colleague Andy Saracho said it best: “We are wounded. We are down. But as a nation, we will rise again.”