PALO, Leyte, Philippines – US Ambassador Philip Goldberg and eight American lawmakers visited the village of San Jose here yesterday to see for themselves how the World Food Program (WFP) and its partners were distributing US aid and how this was impacting on the lives of survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
The US lawmakers were Ed Royce of California, Steve Chabot of Oklahoma, Brad Sherman of California, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, Randy Weber of Texas, Joseph Kennedy of Minnesota, and Luke Messer of Indiana.
Royce said he was particularly interested in how the amendment he recently introduced to the US law governing foreign relief aid was helping the Yolanda victims.
Dan Suther of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said the amendment helped a lot, as it allowed them to locally purchase food like biscuits and rice for immediate distribution.
Royce told The STAR that the amendment now allows the USAID and its partner NGOs to buy supplies locally or from neighboring countries. Before, he said, all goods had to come from the US, thus delaying emergency relief efforts.
Sherman said the US courses its relief assistance through the USAID, which, in turn, funds humanitarian NGOs like WFP to deliver relief aid to the affected families. For the Yolanda relief effort, the US Congress allotted $83 million, he said.
Residents happily greeted and thanked the US delegation for the relief aid. They were also given the second tranche of rice assistance at 10 kilos per head, aside from food packs. Big families went home with sacks of rice.
The WFP reportedly got $25 million of the $83 million that the US Congress released for emergency and rehabilitation efforts in the Philippines.
Praveen Agrawal, WFP country director, said they were already in Leyte a day after Yolanda hit. “We were on the first flight in, a C-130,” he said, adding that they closely monitored the situation although the extent of the destruction was beyond what they imagined.
Among the WFP’s interventions in the communities it was serving in partnership with other NGOs like The Samaritan’s Purse was to distribute food and shelter kits and extend medical service. It also “topped up” the subsidy to recipients of the government’s conditional cash transfer program by P2,600 for December and January as a form of cash assistance to the victims.