MANILA - The United Nations and its aid partners on Tuesday announced a P6-billion humanitarian response program in the Philippines as the country faced the COVID-19 pandemic - the largest yet since the humanitarian crisis spawned by the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
In a statement, the UN office in the Philippines said the plan aims to provide "critical health interventions and multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance" to 5.4 million of the poorest Filipinos in epidemic hotspots.
This as epicenter Metro Manila and surrounding provinces returned to a strict lockdown as cases surged after quarantine measures were eased. Millions remain out of jobs, while the already crippled economy face bleak forecasts.
The UN said the program targets Filipinos living in "poor, densely populated urban settings" and focuses on the safety and wellbeing of women and girls."
“The pandemic is challenging the capacity of response of any single country in the world. Our role is to make best use of our global knowledge and resources,” said Gustavo Gonzalez, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines.
The UN Humanitarian Country Team COVID-19 Response Plan hopes to provide support to government to address urgent needs in the areas of health, food security, water and sanitation, protection and risk communication.
Involved in the program are some 50 UN and local and international non-government partners. By far, 23 percent of the response plan has been mobilized, the UN said, and will be implemented until the end of the year.
The program "...will be updated as needs resulting from the pandemic change," it said.
“As we work together to support government efforts to contain the virus against the demand to restore the economy, the UN and humanitarian partners will continue to seize opportunities to build greater resiliency, equity and inclusivity, in short, to build back forward better,” Gonzalez said.
The Philippines is also included in the $10.3-billion Global Humanitarian Response Plan, "the largest in history" said the UN, which aims to provide support to 63 of the hardest hit and most vulnerable countries.
As of Monday, the Philippines has recorded over 106,000 cases of COVID-19, with many hospitals up to capacity with COVID-19 patients and health workers exhausted, as many of them have also been infected.
The government has incurred record-setting debt this year at P9 trillion because of COVID-19 response needs. In March, it initiated a social amelioration program to provide cash aid to at least 18 million Filipino families, expanded later to include 5 million more.