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Israel Humanitarian Operations: Typhoon Relief Efforts in the Philippines

(Updated March 2016)

In September 2009, November 2013, and again in December 2014 Southeast Asia was devastated by large typhoons that hit landfall over Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and China.

In September 2009, Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) devasted the region, causing more than $1 billion in damages and claiming nearly 800 lives.

In the aftermath of the storm, Israel joined at least a dozen other nations for Operaiton Blessing in sending humanitarian assistance to the Philippines. Israel dispatched both a search and rescue unit as well as an IDF medical team consisting of six volunteer doctors, nurses and paramedics from the organization IsraAID that assisted in medical missions for those injured. On the first day, the team treated more than 300 women, children and elderly victims and over the following two weeks they visited affected communities in Metro Manila and Northern Luzon.

In November 2013, the Philippines was struck by super-typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall. The storm left in its wake a death toll that is estimated at nearly 10,000 and displaced approximately 800,000 people.

Only days after the storm, IsraAID sent a team of seven medical professionals to Tacloban City with the goal of health intervention. The following day, the IDF sent a preliminary assessment team of five experts in the fields of search, rescue, and medicine to closely form a situation assessment and infrastructure evaluation that would determine the best rapid response the IDF could offer.

With analysis from its preliminary team, the IDF embarked on Operation Islands of Hope, sending a 150 member team to provide search & rescue and medical services. The IDF also prepared approximately 100 tons of humanitarian and medical supplies as well as 1, 500 children's for the typhoon-stricken areas. 

Maj. Gen. Eyal Eizenberg, commander of the IDF Home Front Command: "Providing aid and assistance is part of who we are. In the places where this is no one, we will be there. Our mission is challenging but here sit the best of the best, trained professionals with years of experience. It’s a huge honor to represent the State of Israel and an even bigger honor to help save lives and assist those in need."

In response to the immediate and overwhelming support Israel provided, Philippine Ambassador to Israel Generoso D.G. Calonge expressed appreciation for the assistance, saying it made him "so happy." "I can’t describe the feeling right now," said Calonge, "that my host country cares about our stricken people. I hope the people of Israel will maintain their attitude of people who are stricken with this crisis and who are on the losing end of natural disasters."

Within the first week of Operation Islands of Hope, the IDF medical delegation was treating upwards of 300 patients per day and had successfully delivered 12 babies.

The IDF's quick response in the Philippines, as had been the case in Haiti and Japan after similar natural disasters, attracted international praise. NBC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman, for example, said she "was in awe" after visiting the Israeli field hospital in Bogo City.

Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) devastated the Philippines in December 2014, leaving at least 30 residents dead and infrastructure destroyed.  Partnering with the AJC, workers with the IsrAID and IsrAID Philippines programs were in the Philippines within days of the storm to provide emergency services to the mourning population.  IsrAID and IsrAID Philippines provided the Filipino residents with social, psychological and medical relief, as well as food and water.  Israeli aid workers focused much of their efforts on the town of Can-Avid, where an estimated 97% of the residents were affected by the storm.  In the two weeks following the Typhoon Israeli medical workers treated over 400 sick and injured individuals and delivered non-perishable food items and medical supplies to over 500 families. 

Sources: ReliefWeb;
Levy, Yael.“Israel to aid Philippines in post-storm efforts,” YNET News (October 8, 2009);
Mungula, Hayley. “IsraAID sends medical team to Philippines to help after monster storm,” Jerusalem Post (November 11, 2013);
Rosen, Benji. “Philippine envoy thanks Israeli government, NGOs as aid and assistance continues,” Jerusalem Post, (November 13, 2013);
“IDF sends assessment team to typhoon-struck Philippines,” Times of Israel (November 11, 2013);
Ginsburg, Mitch. “Israeli hospital treats hundreds a day in Philippines,” Times of Israel, (November 17, 2013);
IDF Spokesperson;
“Dr. Nancy Snyderman 'in awe' of Israeli medics in Philippines,” NBC News, (November 15, 2013)
“IsraAID provides aid to victims of Philippines typhoon,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (December 22, 2014);
“IsraAID's Philippine Grows program a regional success,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (March 3, 2016)