Typhoon aftermath: Singapore can share disaster recovery skills

Typhoon aftermath: Singapore can share disaster recovery skills
Dr Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, calling on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday.

When typhoon-ravaged areas in the Philippines begin the rebuilding process in the coming months, Singapore can help by sharing its expertise in post-disaster recovery, said the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Dr Peter Maurer.

He noted that the Singapore Red Cross has developed the capabilities in meeting water, sanitation and health-care needs in disaster zones. "All three areas are absolutely central and critical for any reasonable and well-organised follow up to a disaster," he added.

Dr Maurer was speaking to reporters at the Red Cross Home for the Disabled Tuesday while in Singapore on a two-day visit. He called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana Tuesday, and will be giving a public talk on modern humanitarian efforts at Orchard Parade Hotel today.

The ICRC, whose mandate is to help victims of armed conflicts, was one of the first respondents in the stricken areas in the Philippines when Typhoon Haiyan struck on Nov 8. It was able to respond quickly because it had staff in Mindanao, which was spared the typhoon.

The organisation packed food, medication and household items into 10 trucks and sent them to areas that may be in the typhoon's path, said Dr Maurer.

It also set up a website to help reunite families.

So far, it has received more than 27,000 requests from people looking for family members, he added.

Dr Maurer said social media has been an "extremely effective" tool in humanitarian efforts. But in some cases, when there are no organisations or teams to coordinate relief efforts, he said some victims may not get the help they need.

The disaster also shows how important it is to have early warning systems in place, he said.

"But to be honest, I don't think there's any disaster you can perfectly plan for."

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