In the wake of Typhoon Pablo, our vet based In Mindanao, the hardest hit region in the Philippines, rushed to get a disaster response team into the field to help the thousands of animals affected by the natural disaster.
Network for Animals was the only NGO in the region to offer specific relief for animals, so we decided to focus our relief efforts in the Compostela valley where several towns were literally wiped from the face of the earth by flash floods.
Typhoon Pablo (international name: Bopha) swept across the Mindanao region of the Philippines on December 4th with winds up to 200km an hour, causing widespread devastation. The death toll from the disaster topped 1,000 this week with many more people missing and thousands displaced from their homes, and of course many thousands of animals have been affected.
Dino Yebron, our vet who normally works on the horse fighting campaign in Mindanao, was able to put together a team of volunteers, purchased veterinary supplies and animal food, and then drove for a full day to get into place. There are numerous risks associated with this type of relief work, in particular the dangerous environment created by fallen trees and the dusty heat, but also the pressure on the limited relief stations where there were reports of stampedes as aid was handed out.
Arriving into the New Bataan, Compostela Valley, to commence operations, Dino described the scene, “While the scene along the highway was horrible, the scene where an estimated 1,000 people perished is something that is hard to comprehend. A community of more than 500 families disappeared. It’s hard to comprehend how Mother Nature could have done that, that in a matter of a few hours, she was able to remove those buildings houses, trees and replace it with rocks and boulders.”
Our volunteers immediately coordinated with staff from the local municipal veterinarian’s office and started handing out dog food and providing veterinary care for injured animals. Food is often the most vital element in situations like this, as most food sources for stray animals, of which there are many in the Philippines, are destroyed by flooding. Additionally, pet owners who find themselves having lost everything, struggle to find enough food for their pets, so rely on aid from groups like NFA.
The group comprised of eight veterinarians plus people with experience in agriculture. Volunteers from the Department of Agriculture in Davao City assisted the operation by providing care for agricultural animals and animal husbandry advice.
The team also visited four evacuation centres housing thousands of homeless people and their pets and were able to provide food and care for all animals in need. Although a fraction of the relief effort, the Network for Animals team was the only group in the region offering aid to animals. The volunteers, working in areas where flood water reached depths of ten foot, were heartened by tales of dogs and their owners swimming side by side to safety.
The regular devastating natural disasters that affect the Philippines mean that there is always a need for disaster relief work. Having a team on standby who are able to respond quickly and effectively to the plight of animals displaced and injured by natural disasters is a key element of our mission. We are immensely proud of the risks they take to ensure safety for animals in peril.