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Red Cross seeks funds for Philippines typhoon victims

Written by: Staff
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GENEVA, Dec 5 (Reuters) The Red Cross today appealed for 8.8 million Swiss francs to help 200,000 people hardest-hit by Typhoon Durian and other storms in the Philippines, amid fears of diseases such as cholera.

''These communities have been hit now by four major storms since the end of September and the situation remains very serious,'' Anna Nelson of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told a news briefing.

The Geneva-based Federation, the world's largest relief agency, aims to provide food, health care, blankets and mosquito nets to 200,000 people over nine months.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday declared a state of national calamity in the country where up to 1,000 people are feared killed in landslides and floods triggered by Typhoon Durian, which also swept into southern Vietnam today.

An estimated 67,000 houses have collapsed in the Philippines and another 103,000 homes have been partially damaged during the recent storms, according to the Federation.

''Many people are without a roof over their heads or access to essential services,'' said Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippines National Red Cross.

The Red Cross has provided emergency food including rice, noodles and canned goods to around 9,000 people so far and expects to distribute rations to another 7,500 today.

The World Health Organisation, a United Nations agency, is providing water purification equipment and emergency health kits in the region, where hospitals and sanitation structures have been destroyed or damaged.

''One of the most important things is to provide potable water because many sanitation structures have been destroyed and it could cause water-borne diseases,'' WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters.

''We know cholera is present in the country and region. It could give rise to malaria which is also present. Even simple diarrhoeal diseases can be deadly for children,'' she added.

About 45 per cent of the people affected by the storms are children, according to the U N Children's Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF was sending 4,000 family-sized tents, as well as food supplies, blankets and water purification tablets, spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said.

The Federation and U N agencies said that their assessment teams were still evaluating damage and needs.

REUTERS PDM BS1751

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